Implementation of GMO law pushed to Oct. 1

LIHUE — Implementation of Ordinance 960, a new county law regulating the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms on Kauai, has been delayed to Oct. 1 via a court order issued last week.

The ordinance (formerly Bill 2491) was passed in November and slated to take effect Aug. 16. However, a lawsuit challenging the legality of the law was filed in February by four companies — Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF and Dow AgroSciences — that would be directly impacted by the measure.

The U.S. District Court in Honolulu is scheduled to hold hearings on the matter July 23. Due to the volume of cross-motions that have been filed, however, all parties have entered into a Stipulation and Order which delays the effective date of the ordinance, the county wrote in a release Thursday.

“The delay allows the court sufficient time to issue its various decisions after the July hearings, without the parties having to deal with underlying bases for Ordinance 960 and the expected discovery,” said attorney David Minkin, who was retained to defend the county in the case.

Minkin noted that all parties to the case and the court agreed to the order.

Councilman Tim Bynum, who co-introduced the measure in July with Councilman Gary Hooser, agreed the delay was a good thing to allow for proper sequencing and timing.

“This is a routine thing that makes sense,” he said. “Nobody disagreed with it.”

The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, a trade group representing the seed industry in Hawaii, did not return The Garden Island’s request for comment. 

In spite of the lawsuit, the county says it is taking the necessary measures to adopt administrative rules that will govern enforcement of the ordinance once it takes effect. On Wednesday, the state Small Business Regulatory Review Board reviewed the draft rules during its monthly meeting in Honolulu.

Responsibilities of the SBRRB include providing commentary on small business impact statements to rule-drafting departments, as well as recommendations to the mayors or county councils regarding county rules.

Prior to being submitted to SBRRB, the draft rules were vetted during a series of public meetings around Kauai. Feedback received during the meetings and from comments submitted via email were considered and several amendments were incorporated into the final product that was reviewed today, the county said. 

The next step, according to George Costa, director of the Office of Economic Development, which is tasked with implementing and enforcing Ordinance 960, is to consider written comments that may be provided by the SBRRB, then conduct a public hearing on the final draft rules on Kauai.

“By statute we must wait 30 days for a public hearing,” Costa said in the release.  “Even though the implementation date has been pushed back by the court, we plan to hold the public hearing in late July or early August, so that we can move forward and have the rules in place prior to the implementation date.”

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