HILO >> Three organic farmers on the Big Island and a national group against genetically modified crops are asking to help Hawaii County defend itself in a federal lawsuit.
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday that the Center for Food Safety and the farmers filed a motion last week to intervene in the case in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
The lawsuit is challenging a county law that would ban open-air use and testing of modified crops, with exceptions for farmers who are already growing them. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23.
Several groups, including florists, banana and papaya growers and ranchers, filed the lawsuit in June. They argue that the ban is not allowed under state and federal law. They say there are no findings that the crops are harmful.
The farmers looking to intervene in the lawsuit say they should be able to grow unmodified crops without the risk of cross-pollination.
“In Hawaii, we believe that our seeds, crops and foods should remain free of contamination from genetically engineered plants,” said Nancy Redfeather, one of three farmers looking to help the county defend the law.
The Center for Food Safety, based in Washington, D.C., is also helping Kauai County defend its own law on genetically modified foods there.