Video by David Corrigan, voice of Stephanie Salazar
HILO, Hawaii – On Tuesday, the Hawaii County Council Committee on Public Safety and Mass Transit postponed a vote on a bill that would prohibit new kinds of genetically modified organisms on the island.
The council chamber in Hilo was packed to the limits of legal capacity, as crowds from both sides showed up to watch the decision making on Bill 79, even though no public testimony was being accepted.
A few weeks ago, the same committee sat through hours of public testimony on the bill. Both sides of the issue presented their opinion at that time.
Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille introduced the bill, and on Wednesday she offered a number of amendments. Councilmembers were uneasy with the idea of voting on the amended bill without reading it carefully or hearing from the public. They voted to put the matter aside for another time and date, but not before Puna councilman Greggor Ilagan acknowledged the large group of papaya farmers who came out to show force against the bill.
The Committee on Public Safety and Mass Transit has rescheduled the meeting for Tuesday, July 2nd in at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kona. This time, the committee will hear public testimony before taking a vote.
Tensions rise between groups at odds
The atmosphere is getting tense here in Hawaii County over the passionate GMO debate.
One example played out after Wednesday’s council meeting, when a group with the papaya industry met with lobbyists and elected officials behind closed doors in the county building.
Kerri Marks, an anti-GMO activist and omnipresent videographer of county government meetings, says she was told it was a private meeting and that they shut the door on her.
Of course, she kept her camera rolling.
Marks, who also represents Occupy Hawaii and uploads all her videos to YouTube, was angry that the public conference room was being used for this purpose and that she was apparently not welcome.
Both groups are planning on mobilizing for a huge showing at the next county council committee meeting on bill 79.