WAILUKU >> Maui County voters will cast ballots in November on a proposal to impose a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered organisms.
The Maui County Council on Thursday declined to take action on a voter initiative for the moratorium. This cleared the way for the measure to appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, The Maui News reported.
The group Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina Movement collected more than 9,000 signatures in support of the initiative.
Council members had the option of passing the measure as an ordinance, but policy committee Chairman Riki Hokama said he had “legal concerns” about the bill’s structure and about it not being compliant with the county charter. He recommended allowing the measure to go to the ballot without council approval.
“In good conscience, I will not ask you to vote on this proposal because of the flaws and the other issues that the chair feels are too important to ignore,” he said.
Hundreds of people testified before the committee on both sides of the hotly debated measure.
Two companies that grow genetically modified crops in the county — Monsanto Co. and Dow Chemical Co.’s AgroSciences affiliate Mycogen Seeds — have said hundreds of people would lose their jobs on Maui and Molokai if the measure passed.
In a written response to the council’s action, the SHAKA Movement on Thursday evening disputed the “loss of jobs” campaign by the biotech industry, saying that it “shows how our elected officials can be easily swayed by misinformation.”
The proposed moratorium would make it illegal to cultivate, grow or test genetically modified crops in Maui County until companies complete environmental and public health studies to show their practices are safe.