Shaka movement Aloha Aina Unity March

I hope everyone knows the story last year of how five Maui citizens launched the ballot initiative that culminated in 23,400 voters approving a temporary moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops until an independent study confirmed the safety of these experiments.

No one was surprised that Monsanto and Dow responded with a legal challenge filed against the county to prevent implementation of the law. 

On June 30th, Chief District Court Judge Susan Mollway published her decision invalidating the results of last November’s election and (for now) giving the industry a free pass to continue, what I and many others believe, its radical and dangerous experiments with the health of our keiki and aina.

In an amazing and appalling ruling, the judge decided to ignore SHAKA’s claims of potential harms and requests to examine records and present evidence. Instead she ruled very narrowly that the Maui county did not have the authority to pass such an ordinance as state and federal laws preempt county law.

To quote from her 57 page ruling: “This order is not an attempt by this court to pass judgment on any benefit or detriment posed by GE activities or GMOs. Notwithstanding the concern that many people have expressed on both sides of these issues . . .  those issues are not before this court on the present motions, and those who want those issues addressed must seek means other than the present order to accomplish that. Similarly not before the court at this time is the question of whether it might be a good idea to allow the County to regulate GE activities and GMOs.”

Despite Judge Mollways wholly unsupported assertions to the contrary, these were precisely the issues before the court. What the judge did was to unilaterally (at the industry and certain county official’s request) invalidate the result of an election, disregard rights guaranteed under the Hawaii State Constitution and allow the possibility of severe public health and environmental harms to Maui and Molokai residents to continue under her authority.

There were critical factual issues concerning the scope of federal and state regulations and whether the Ordinance conflicted with these laws. The District Court should have at a minimum allowed limited discovery before reaching the merits of preemption. In fact, no state laws regulate GMOs or protects against transgenic contamination.  The County of Maui had express authority under the Hawaii Constitution and state law to protect Public Trust Resources and to use its police powers to protect health, life, and property.

At present, SHAKA’s appeal of these improprieties and clear errors in judgement are already before the 9th Circuit court, on appeal. There remains substantial hope we will find Justice there and as we further refine and develop our case on appeal things will get clearer. That the injunction is (i) contrary to the public interest (as expressed in a general election), (ii) potentially causing continued irreparable harm to the environment, and (iii) invalidating legal rights explicitly affirmed under the State’s Constitution.

Image Credit: SHAKA Movement

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