The new battleground in the fight between environmental activists and companies such as DuPont Co., Syngenta AG and Dow Chemical Co. over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) isn’t the plains of Iowa or Nebraska, but rather all the way out west in Hawaii.
Those three agricultural companies filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court in Honolulu on Jan. 10 looking to block a recent law on the Hawaiian island of Kauai that would limit the planting and spraying of GMO-containing crops. The law, which would begin to be enforced in August, would restrict most crop growing near schools and nursing homes, as well as require disclosure of all chemical use and GMO crop cultivation.
The companies claim in a joint statement released to The Wall Street Journal that the law is invalid. “It arbitrarily targets our industry with burdensome and baseless restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties in Hawaii have no jurisdiction,” the statement said. “These activities are already regulated by governmental agencies under state and federal laws.”
According to the WSJ, the companies lease a combined 11,500 acres for test farms and research facilities on the island of Kauai, which is the fourth-largest on the state.
Hawaii has become an important component in the business strategy for all of these companies, especially with the year-round growing weather found in the state. Accordingly, the companies have also found more pushback from activists and governmental officials as their presence grows. The island of Hawaii, the largest in the state, passed a law that bans GMO crop cultivation in December.
Environmental activists in Hawaii have pushed for these new laws, and the state’s conflict could become a testing ground for other similar laws across the country. The Supreme Court has previously ruled on patent issues surrounding GMOs, but the federal government has largely left states to their own devices regarding planting regulation.
Many activists have fought to limit GMO crop planting and require labeling of GMO foods, but the major agricultural companies argue that GMO foods have no history of health problems and labeling them is unnecessary. So far, most states have no GMO-restrictive laws on the books, even as agricultural companies are beginning to feel more pressure.
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