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Kauai needs more cash to defend GMO, pesticide law

    2013 JULY 18 CTY Lance Atkins, Field Operations manager inspect a corn field. Proposed ordinance Bill 2491 that calls for oversight of pesticide use of large agricultural farms. Syngeta is one of the seed companies that would be impacted by this bill that would create buffer zones near hospitals, schools, waterways, etc. Various photos of farm. SA photo by Craig T. Kojima

LIHUE >> Kauai’s county attorney has asked the county council for more money to defend a new law regulating genetically engineered crops and pesticides.

The county attorney is seeking $50,000 to pay private attorneys defending it against a federal lawsuit filed by seed companies, The Garden Island newspaper reported.

The companies argue the ordinance is invalid and arbitrarily targets their industry with “burdensome and baseless” restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties have no jurisdiction.

Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer and Agrigenetics Inc., a unit of Dow AgroSciences, filed the lawsuit in January. BASF joined the complaint a month later.

The new law requires the companies to disclose their use of pesticides and genetically modified crops. It also requires them to establish buffer zones around sensitive areas, including schools and hospitals.

The council in February authorized spending $75,000 on attorneys for the case.

The county hired the Honolulu firm McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP to represent it in court. The nonprofit advocacy group, Center for Food Safety, and Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, is representing a coalition of Kauai residents and public interest groups.

A federal judge in Honolulu on Wednesday is expected to hear evidence on whether the lawsuit should continue or be thrown out.

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