Challenge Highlights Flaws in Hawaii's Anti-GMO Law

A judge on Hawaii's Big Island last week halted enforcement of part of Hawaii's flawed anti-GMO law.

GMO protestStephen D. Melkisethian Foter.com CC BY-NC-NDLast week a Hawaii state judge issued an injunction halting enforcement of a key component of a new anti-GMO law. The judge ruled after a farmer sued the county government of the eponymous "Big Island" of Hawaii, seeking to halt enforcement of the legislation.

The law, passed late last year, bans growing and field testing of nearly all GMO crops. The anonymous papaya farmer argues that the law "sharply conflicts with federal and state law."

While the Hawaii ordinance exempts GMO papaya farmers—because, well, papayas!—it requires them to register annually at a cost of $100 for every farmed location, explains Hawaii land use attorney Robert Thomas.

The anonymous farmer opposes providing such information and fears that his information could be made public. He's got good reason to be fearful. As Reason's Ron Bailey writes in the February 2014 print edition, anti-GMO activists "macheted down" 100 GMO papaya trees this past fall.

Far-off Hawaii may seem like an odd focal point for a debate about planting GMO crops. After all—like many islands—the state imports more than 85 percent of its food.

But it's got a proud agricultural tradition—and one in recent decades that has centered, in part, on GMO crops.

"Hawaii was the site of one of the first great successes of crop biotechnology," writes Bailey. "In the 1990s, the Hawaiian papaya industry was saved by the creation of a genetically enhanced variety modified to resist the ringspot virus that was then devastating growers."

Even the authors of the county GMO ban acknowledge the important role GMOs played in saving Hawaii's papayas, writing in the bill itself that GMO "testing of this one crop over the past decade [w]as the means of choice to address certain papaya diseases."

Given these tensions inherent in the ban, it's not surprising to find similar strains exist on a greater scale throughout Hawaii.

"Underlying the debate about GMOs in Hawaii is, I suspect, a tension between those who have lived in the islands for generations and newcomers from the mainland," says historian Rachel Laudan, author of both The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage and the new Cuisine and Empire, in an email to me.

"For the locals, the islands have always been a place of high tech agriculture," writes Laudan. "Many of them worked on the big sugar and pineapple plantations. They saved to buy small plots of land. Those who farm these plots know that the papaya growers have survived thanks to genetically modified varieties that have been safely used since the 1990s."

In an excellent article earlier this year that detailed the path to passage for the anti-GMO law in Hawaii, New York Times reporter Amy Harmon referred to the GMO debate as "a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence."

That's a particular problem because laws like Hawaii's are spreading.

"This is a national movement," said Hawaii attorney general David Louie recently. "Don’t think that it’s not coming to you."

Science need not drive law and policy. I prefer fewer laws and policies, and would prefer that individual freedom be the first concern of any lawmaker. But if we must have laws and policies—particularly those impacting science—then they must be driven by science.

I defend the right of any farmer or consumer who would rather die than grow or eat GMO foods to avoid them at all costs. I've defended that right often (see here, here, and here, for example). But I defend equally the rights of the farmers who want to grow GMO crops and the consumers who want to eat them (or who are indifferent). Hawaii's anti-GMO law is dead wrong because it favors the rights of one set of people over those of another. Whatever your stance on GMOs, that's a policy worthy of zealous opposition.

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  • Snark Plissken||

    The anonymous farmer opposes providing such information and fears that his information could be made public. He's got good reason to be fearful. As Reason's Ron Bailey writes in the February 2014 print edition, anti-GMO activists "macheted down" 100 GMO papaya trees this past fall.

    Now you see the violence inherent in the system.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Underlying the debate about GMOs in Hawaii is, I suspect, a tension between those who have lived in the islands for generations and newcomers from the mainland...

    Geez. Is there anything on Hawaii that isn't about that?

  • Ted S.||

    The science is settled only as long as it's science that the greenies agree with.

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    agreed

  • ||

    The anonymous farmer opposes providing such information and fears that his information could be made public.

    If you've done nothing wrong then you've got nothing to hide!

    /NSA

  • LibertarianX||

    Not true. If others believe you have done something wrong you can still be made to suffer.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    The U.S. Commerce Department is relinquishing its hold over the group that manages the Internet’s architecture amid pressure to globalize its functions in the wake of reports about NSA surveillance.

    "The National Telecommunications & Information Administration, a Commerce Department agency, said Friday it is transitioning the function to the “global Internet community.” The decision marks a dramatic change. Since the Internet’s inception, the United States has played a leading role in the management of critical back-end Web work, including management of .com and other domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has performed those functions under U.S. Commerce contract since 2000....

    "The United States will give up its oversight role when the current contract with ICANN expires in fall 2015, NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling said. He set out a series of four principles required for the transition, including that ICANN maintain the openness of the Internet. Some U.S. officials and businesses have expressed fears about the United Nations, or governments like Russia and China, taking over control of the Web."

    http://www.politico.com/story/.....04686.html

  • Ted S.||

    The problem is that many of the other jurisdictions would like to lessen free speech on the Internet even more than the US would. :-(

  • ||

    As long as it has just the one job, and does that one job and nothing else, then what's the big deal either way?

    How big of an organization do you need to maintain a list of IP number owners? And aren't there several registrars?

    But on a larger scale, the Free Market is always the best way to distribute limited resources, and less government is always better.

  • ||

    Since ICANN is, and has always been, a private non-profit corporation registered in the US, how exactly would, say, Russia or the UN go about "taking it over"? People are shitting their pants over basically nothing.

  • JeremyR||

    Money? Death threats?

  • Lonely Stalker||

    Forcefeeding of GMO food.

  • Aloysious||

    ...the GMO debate as "a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence."

    I wonder how many of these cretins believe the moon is made of green cheese, aliens are abducting and anal probing fat rural housewives, and that reality television is really really real.

    Every time I meet an organic anti-GMO dupe IRL they are amazingly ignorant of what they are shoving in their pie holes. Maybe it is just me.

  • ||

    "...Flaws in Hawaii's anti-GMO law..."

    You mean the basic premise of it?

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    agreed!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

  • american socialist||

    I consider myself indifferent as to whether my food is derived from genetically-derived organisms. That said, I do not find a particularly good libertarian, as opposed to a corporatist, case for why I should advocate for the right of big agribusiness to grow gmos and then force consumers to put these foods down their gullets. This is exactly the problem with the type of libertarianism that is advocated on this website... People here don't want laws and especially don't want laws passed by democrats, but then want the government to enforce things like intellectual property, property rights, and the right of corporations to produce things that citizens do not want.

    "If we are to have laws... Then they must be driven by science"

    Ridiculous.

  • Sevo||

    "That said, I do not find a particularly good libertarian, as opposed to a corporatist, case for why I should advocate for the right of big agribusiness to grow gmos"

    And you think that's a "right" granted by government? Why am I not surprised a self-proclaimed "socialist" is so ignorant?
    -----------------------
    "and then force consumers to put these foods down their gullets."

    Well, THAT strawman isn't gonna move again!

  • american socialist||

    Yes, the principles of corporate personhood should prevail over electoral democracy. What do you call this type of judicial activity on behalf of a farmer to grow his shitty Monsanto papayas?

    The only way I would support this type of activity is if we pay people that pick these papayas less than $2/hr.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    is if we pay

    Good news, fascist, you're not paying for shit. The employer is.

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.15.14 @ 12:12PM|#
    "Yes, the principles of corporate personhood should prevail over electoral democracy."

    Damn, you must pack a lot of strawmen when you go visiting.
    Oh, and fuck you and your 51% can steal from 49%
    -----------------
    "What do you call this type of judicial activity on behalf of a farmer to grow his shitty Monsanto papayas?"

    Enforcing the law, asshole.

  • american socialist||

    Right, libertarian fealty to laws. That should be a guiding principle for libertarians. I'll look you up the next time a judge enforces some environmental law to see what level of enthusiasm you have for enforcing the law.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Typical perverse socialist logic. No one is forcing anyone else to buy GMO food. You are the one that wants to prevent anyone else from even having that choice. If you don't want to eat it, then don't. It's as simple as that.

    This has nothing to do with corporatism and everything to do with statists like you imposing your will on others.

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.15.14 @ 7:10PM|#
    "Right, libertarian fealty to laws. That should be a guiding principle for libertarians."

    Yes, and as a typically imbecilic 'socialist', you would have no idea that libertarians support the rule of law.
    Rather than the rule of socialist dictators, asshole.

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    aren't you on the wrong website? This isn't the Daily Kos.
    The people here don't believe in the big lie like you and the rest of the koolaide drinkers do.

    We believe that individuals can and should make up their own minds and don't need big government to do it for us. We can decide for ourselves if we want to eat GMOs if we want or not.

  • Big Chief||

    Strawman much?

    Please site the case where the GMO food was forced down someone's gullet.

    And please don't tell me what I do and don't like. I'm pretty sure you are not capable of speaking for anyone on this board, but I know you aren't able to state what I do and don't want.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    but then want the government to enforce things like intellectual property

    Because libertarians are utterly united on their love of IP.

    and the right of corporations to produce things that citizens do not want.

    This is sick. I'm guessing you see yourself as one of the enlightened that get to choose what I do.

    Fuck off, slaver.

  • american socialist||

    Exactly the opposite. I want people to be able to elect officials who legislate and not have some judge intervene on behalf of Dole Pineapple.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    So tyranny of the majority, FTW.

  • ||

    For an explanation of how democracy /= freedom I suggest reading "The Tale of the Slave."

    https://web.duke.edu/philsociety/taleofslave.html

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.15.14 @ 12:05PM|#
    "Exactly the opposite. I want people to be able to elect officials who legislate and not have some judge intervene on behalf of Dole Pineapple."

    Well,they've done so and you loose.
    Fuck off, asshole

  • ||

    Stop dancing with him, he just came here to feed.

  • Sevo||

    RannedPall|3.15.14 @ 12:48PM|#
    "Stop dancing with him, he just came here to feed."

    You are more than welcome to go to another thread; do you think we were lacking your informed advice?

  • ||

    D- trolling.

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    exactly

  • ||

    "right of big agribusiness to grow gmos and then force consumers to put these foods down their gullets."

    OK, back to lesson one in Libertarianism:

    Between a big, bad, greedy corporation that wants to poison its customers, and Our Glorious Savior, Big Government, which one will send men with guns to take your money by force or use the threat of force to dictate to you what you may or may not, or must, eat?

    IF YOU DON'T LIKE GMO, DON'T EAT THEM! "But what if they're not labeled?" THEN DON'T BUY IT!!!! DUH!!!!!

    Food producers who want to pander to the anti-GMO nuts will proudly print "GMO FREE" on their products, and the rest of us can get on with our lives, if the busybodies would just butt out!

  • Robert||

    Why not just lie about it? If nobody can tell the difference, who's going to know your crops are GMO?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Well, there's the thing. If you are supposed to tell them, then they will grant themselves the right to come and check. Probably, given how such things are done theses days, with a S.W.A.T. team.

  • Robert||

    But what's there to check on? Seeds could be obtained & relabeled (or removed from labeled containers) very easily. The labels can be destroyed very easily at any location. The only way to get you would be via a whistle-blower, and we know how easy it is to deal with them.

  • ||

    There's nothing to lie about. It's not the government's place to dictate what foods you can eat. The anti-GMO nuts are simply irrational - they think they'll get Wheaties with antennae.

  • Erasmus vs. Luther||

    American Socialist. There is very, VERY, little in the ways of plant based food consumed by western civilization that hasn't already been genetically modified by our ancestors. It's been going on for 10,000 years. Do you think the wheat you eat is the same thing that evolved naturally? Do know why the Potato Famine occured in Ireland? Read a little history. Genetic modification of food has been FAR more beneficial than harmful. It's not even close.

  • american socialist||

    I agree with everything you say. Should libertarians advocate on behalf of judges and the power of the state to force people to eat gmos in order to further the interests of big agribusiness?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Again, moron, you are the one attempting to control what people eat. This judge is inconveniently getting in your way. Libertarians advocate on behalf of individuals exercising their free will which something you are religiously opposed to. The only force here is from your side.

  • Lord at War||

    Should libertarians advocate on behalf of judges and the power of the state to force people to eat gmos in order to further the interests of big agribusiness?

    You neglected to mention where the "power of the state" forces people to consume GMOs.

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.15.14 @ 7:20PM|#
    "Should libertarians advocate on behalf of judges and the power of the state to force people to eat gmos in order to further the interests of big agribusiness?"

    You stupid shit, no one has done so. Do you have any point not based on a strawman?

  • american socialist||

    Do you think the reason the libertarian party gets a little more than 1% of the vote every 4 years is the cult-like, hyperbolic, and violent rhetoric of its adherents? I figured you would be the one to ask this question to. Thanks, in advance.

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.15.14 @ 9:29PM|#
    "Do you think the reason the libertarian party gets a little more than 1% of the vote every 4 years is the cult-like, hyperbolic, and violent rhetoric of its adherents? I figured you would be the one to ask this question to. Thanks, in advance."

    Dunno. Care to tell me why you promote a political/economic system responsible for the deaths of one hundred million innocent people? I figured an asshole like you would be the one to ask.
    Thanks in advance.

  • ||

    It's the government backing the big agribusinesses that are getting their panties all in a bunch because they want to maintain exclusive control of who gets the enhanced seeds. It is illegal to save out a portion of GMO grains to grow the following year, because that would cut into their monopoly. I have a cousin who is a family farmer, but he does pretty well at it; maybe well enough to be called an
    "agribusiness," and he knows about those things.

    As usual, government is the problem. The only government intervention I would abide would be to insist that the food be labeled to quiet the screaming meemies, and meet whatever ordinary standards are already in place for all food and are working.

  • american socialist||

    Here's what I've learned here in the commentary... Let me know if I get it right

    1. Unless there is absolute scientific certainty on the issue, Legislation on any kind of Food safety laws, particularly when they affect big agribusiness, is tyranny. When I'm dry heaving in the toilet after injesting fecal coliform present in my Monsanto burger, I should consult my Ayn Rand capitalist theory manual on the "takers" in the Food And Drug Administration
    2. The rights of big agribusiness are indistinguishable from the rights of an individual
    3. electing people who don't share your opinion and having them legislate is like slavery
    4. Losing an election and having a legislator enact a law you don't like means that 1. ??? And then 2. "51% can steal from 49%"
    5. As libertarians we should advocate for the rule of law on issues where we agree with the law, but then advocate against the rule of law when we disagree with the law
    6. Norman Thomas and Eugene debs killed 100 million people
    7. Libertarians are particularly foul-mouthed.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    As if socialists are capable of learning.

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    they aren't thats why they are socialists!
    All they are capable of doing is parroting the "arguements" of other socialists.

    Not a original thought in their entire collective brains

  • Sevo||

    This one is particularly amusing
    "6. Norman Thomas and Eugene debs killed 100 million people"
    No, dipshit, they, like you, promoted a system that did so for them.
    Aren't you happy you could get someone else to do the dirty work for you, slimeball?

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    And you are particularly stupid!

    You can eat whatever you like - organic Gmos whatever -it is all for sale locally

    no libertarian on the planet would want to restrict your right to buy whatever food you want.

    It is only idiotic socialists like yourself that wishes to restrict people from buying what they want.

    if you can't get that though your thick skull than you really have no place on this website. It is for people that actually understand libertarianism and can intelligently discuss issues.
    It is not for moronic socialists to troll on.

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    communists(world socialists) facists(national socialists) in countries like China, Russia, Cambodia,Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Cuba and dozens of other countries killed HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE

    NOTHING has caused more misery,suffering, war, and death than the socialist ideology you espouse.

    when was the last time a libertarian caused a mass murder?
    Hmmmmm............

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|3.16.14 @ 3:18AM|#
    "Here's what I've learned here in the commentary... Let me know if I get it right"

    So I read your entire list of lies, innuendo and misdirection.
    No, you didn't get a single one "right". Either you are smart enough to know that and hoped to slide your rank bullshit by the readers, or you are abysmally ignorant.
    So, which is it, a.s.? Knave or fool? Or perhaps both.

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