Civil Beat in Honolulu is reporting that federal Judge Susan Mollway has struck down Maui County’s controversial anti-GMO ballot measure, saying simply that because state and federal law preempts it, the bill is “invalid and unenforceable.”
“The court recognizes the importance of questions about whether GE activities and GMOs pose risks to human health, the environment, and the economy, and about how citizens may participate in democratic processes,” Mollway said in her ruling, according to Civil Beat. “But any court is a reactive body that addresses matters before it rather than reaching out to grab hold of whatever matters may catch a judge’s fancy because the matters are interesting, important, or of great concern to many people.”
Mollway’s ruling is clear–she struck down the ballot measure on legal grounds alone. She said the contentious battle over GMO science and Monsanto–which grows GMO crops in Maui County–had nothing to do with it.
“The court stresses again, so that no lay party has any misapprehension on this point, that it is ruling purely on legal grounds,” she said, according to Civil Beat. “No portion of this ruling says anything about whether GE organisms are good or bad or about whether the court thinks the substance of the Ordinance would be beneficial to the County.”
The measure–the county’s first ever ballot initiative–won 50.2 percent to 47.9 percent in the 2014 general election. Post-election analysis by retired Maui professor Dick Mayer showed that voters in South Maui, West Maui and Haiku largely supported the bill, while voters in Central Maui, Molokai and Lanai were decidedly against it.
Look, we take no glee in this decision. In fact, it kinda makes us sad. Yes, we editorialized against the bill during the 2014 election, saying we thought it was poorly written and based on faulty science.
But from the very beginning, we’ve also supported the unprecedented, even historic grassroots movement that led to huge numbers of people stepping forward to actively participate in our democracy, even if it was only just to vote on this single issue. We supported the movement, but not their bill. We applaud the peoples’ actions, but not the results.
There’s no word yet on whether the SHAKA movement, which spearheaded the bill, will appeal, but we’d be shocked if they didn’t. Mark Sheehan, an official the SHAKA movement, which spearheaded the bill, says they’ll definitely appeal.
“The judge’s ruling has invalidated the constitutional right of 23,000 voters on Maui,” said Sheehan in a GMO Free Maui email sent out this afternoon. “Our attorneys are seeking justice through appeals.”
Hilariously, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s reporting that “Maui County spokesman Rod Antone says the county will abide by the judge’s ruling.” Well, duh–most County officials hated the bill from the beginning, and Mayor Alan Arakawa publicly opposed it during the 2014 campaign.
Click here for Civil Beat’s story on the ruling.
Photo of 2012 protest against Monsanto in Kihei: Viriditas/Wikimedia Commons