Kaua’i Loses Big Battle Against Biotech Companies

kauai farm

Four biotech companies operating on Hawai’i’s island of Kaua’i will not have to disclose which seeds are genetically modified and which pesticides the companies are using, ruled a federal judge.

A law slated to go into effect in October would have forced biotech companies including Syngenta Seeds, DuPont Pioneer, Agrigenetics Inc., (Dow AgroSciences), and BASF Plant Sciences to disclose such information about their growing practices on the southwest side of the island. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled in favor of the companies, supporting their stance that the ordinance would be targeting the biotech industry unjustly. Judge Kurren said that Hawai’i state law preempts the county ordinance.

Early on the bill was controversial. Mayor Bernard Carvalho initially vetoed the bill, calling it flawed. The county passed it anyway, likely because the battle over biotech companies’ practices on Kaua’i has been heating up in recent years. Many companies operate open-air test fields on Kaua’i where potentially hazardous pesticide and herbicide combinations are mixed and genetically modified seed crops are tested in the year-round warm climate.

An attorney for several of the biotech companies applauded Judge Kurren’s ruling, saying that the county “wasted time, effort and money trying to fight for a law they had no right to pass in the first place.”

According to the AP, Kaua’i Councilman Gary Hooser, who co-authored the bill targeting the biotech companies, hopes the county will appeal the judge’s decision. “These companies have fought compliance for over a year now. They have much more money than the county … they’re billion-dollar corporations determined not to follow the rules of Kaua’i County,” he said. “This is a long way from over.”

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Image: Jill Ettinger