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Proposed GMO moratorium impractical, Maui mayor says

    Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa

WAILEA, Hawaii » A moratorium on genetically modified crops is impractical, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa said.

A proposed moratorium would make it illegal to cultivate, grow or test genetically modified crops in the county until companies complete environmental and public health studies to show their practices are safe.

If approved in the Nov. 4 general election, the ballot initiative would be almost impossible to administer, Arakawa said.

"It’s going to require the county to become very invasive in that we’re going to have to go to almost every single person’s house, (inspect) every tree that’s there, be able to identify in our forests, in our pastures, all the potentially infested GMO products and somehow be able to control it," he said Thursday, speaking at an event featuring panel discussions with mayoral, gubernatorial and County Council candidates.

The intent of the initiative might have been to target large seed companies, but the bill is poorly written because it doesn’t exclude private residents, Arakawa said.

He didn’t take a formal stance on GMOs at the forum but has said he doesn’t believe they are harmful, the Maui News reported Friday.

Mayoral candidate Tamara Paltin, a county lifeguard, said she supports the ballot initiative for open-air experimental tests using large amounts of chemical combinations, until they can be proven safe.

"Large agricultural interests in the past have contaminated our ground­water," she said.

Anti-GMO group Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina gathered 19,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. The group, known as the SHAKA Movement, is the first citizens group in Maui County to have gathered enough support to put an initiative on the ballot.

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