We’ve had an active anti-GMO movement on the Big Island for some time. But recently, County Councilwoman Margaret Wille managed to turn sentiment into action with her Bill 79 which bans the expansion of GMO here. People from all over the island testified in July, 233 (including me) for the ban, 43 against it. The lop-sidedness in the written testimony was even more staggering: 1000 people wrote supporting the anti-GMO bill while 100 wanted the bill voted down. The people clearly spoke.
Councilwoman Margaret Wille opened the proceedings with this warning:
This Bill is also about making decisions that affect our island community here, in other words AG home rule. If we do not seize this moment to determine our own future, you can be sure that come January when the state legislature convenes, the GMO lobbyists will be crafting state level legislation to usurp our right to county level local decision-making. For this reason any effort to postpone or create an elite stakeholder task force, in place of passage of this legislation, will for practical purposes equate to killing this Bill and foregoing this opportunity to chart our own future.
Local rule is in jeopardy. So delay means defeat for the will of the people.
Because of Hawai‘i’s sunshine laws prohibiting council members from discussing pending legislation outside the public eye, this was the first opportunity for them and the public to hear where each stood on Bill 79. It was clear from the discussion that the bill as written had some flaws, and it needed to be simplified. But to my surprise, the sentiment of the council was generally for the banning of further GMO activity on Hawai‘i, especially field trials of GMO seed stock. The GMO producing companies favor the isolation of these islands and the year round growing season that enables multiple trials to speed up their experiments. Other Hawai‘i islands have already been inundated with such trials.
The remaining debate centered on how best to proceed, given that even Margaret agreed that the bill needed to be revised. In the end, she decided that it would be much cleaner to withdraw Bill 79 and offer a new bill. Meanwhile, the chairwoman, Brenda Ford had not able to provide her opinion until all other debate ended. When she finally had the chance to comment, she expressed a deep concern that nothing would get done. As a result, she declared her intention to bring her own bill banning GMOs to the county council.
Will debating two bills slow the council down? The clock is ticking, but at least we are debating something. I say “we,” because with new bills, the public is again able to submit testimony, and we will once again hear the will of the people.
(For background on the Big Island’s anti-GMO legislation, see these other posts on this blog: The bounty of the Big Island, endangered; Responsibility for the ‘āina is personal; Does all GMO = predatory farming?; and It’s my kuleana to act…again and WOO-HOO…I think.)
If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.