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Hawaiians Win Community GMO Victory over Monsanto

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Hawaii News page.

Maui residents in late October protested Monsanto's heavy pesticide use. (Photo: Babes Against Biotech/ Facebook)

Residents of Maui County in Hawaii, frequently referred to as 'GMO Ground Zero,' claimed a victory Tuesday evening when a measure to ban the planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) passed with 50.2 percent.

Agribusiness giants Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, which for decades have run enormous growing and testing operations on the island, spent nearly $8 million dollars to defeat the ban, making it the most expensive campaign in Hawaii's history, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.

Known as the Maui County Genetically Modified Organism Moratorium Initiative, the measure will ban all GMO growth, testing or cultivation in the county until an environmental and public health study is conducted and finds the proposed cultivation practices to be safe and harmless.

"I think that this is a really strong message to the entire agrochemical industry in the state of Hawaii that we are no longer going to sit idly by and watch them expand their operations without the kinds of regulations that ensure the health and safety of people across Hawaii," Ashley Lukens, who directs the Hawaii chapter of the Center for Food Safety, told Civil Beat.

Hawaiians have become increasingly concerned over GMO crop production and how its associated heavy pesticide use impacts the health of both people and environment. Over 80 different chemicals are sprayed on GMO fields, which ban proponents warn, creates billions of untested chemical combinations which then spread into "our neighborhoods, oceans, reefs, groundwater, drinking water, food supply and bodies."   

Last year, the Hawaiian Department of Health tested the surface water around the island and pesticides were found in 100 percent of the samples. According to official election results, the moratorium passed with just over 1,000 votes. In comparison to the millions raised in industry dollars by ban opposition group Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban (CAMCFB), supporters of the initiative raised just under $65,000.