UPDATE: An historic decision took place at the Hawaii County Council on Tuesday. By a 6 to 3 vote, councilmembers approved a bill that would ban new genetically engineered crops from Hawaii Island.
Bill 113 would exempt the transgenic papaya and corn already being used on the Big Island, but it draws the line on any new GMO crops that might come along.
Tuesday’s decision on final reading was highly anticipated and months in the making. The proposed law divided the island’s agricultural interests between those in favor and those in opposition.
But it was the anti-GMO voice that made its point most effectively in the eyes of the majority of elected officials. The only no votes were the two Hilo councilmembers Dennis “Fresh” Onishi and council chair J Yoshimoto. Puna councilman Greggor Ilagan also voted against the bill.
But it was a proud moment for North Kohala councilwoman Margaret Wille, who crafted the bill that just flexible enough to gain acceptance from most councilmembers. We spoke to her right after the big vote.
Now the bill goes to the desk of mayor Billy Kenoi where he can either sign it into law, let it become law without his signature, or veto. In the case of a veto, it will go back to the council where they will have the chance to try to override his actions, although a minimum of six votes will be needed to get it done.
Outside the council chamber at the West Hawaii Civic Center, we spoke to a number of the folks who were crucial in shepherding bill 113 through the onerous lawmaking process.
Perhaps none played a bigger behind the scenes role than Kerri Marks, who documented everything as a member of the Ocuppy Hilo movement, and served as a coordinator for activism.
There were also the activists who have reached a celebrity like status in their tireless effort to bring awareness to the issue, like Naomi Carmona of the group Babes Against Biotech.
Another Babe Against Biotech, Jennifer Rose Mydock, has been front and center during the many council hearings – often under a mask – with her three year old son Dorian by her side.
Support also came from the Island of Kauai, where a bill requiring disclosure on pesticide use and buffer zones was passed just a few days ago, despite the opposition of the biotech industry. The bill was vetoed by Kauai’s mayor, but the council managed to override.
Members of Ohana O Kauai like Dustin Barca and Fern Anuenue – who played such a big role in the movement on their island – flew in just for the vote.
Dustin and Fern said in some ways its already too late for Kauai, where the biotech industry is too deeply entrenched. The hearings for Kauai’s bill were emotional. Testifiers told personal stories of children inflicted with deformities at birth, which they blame on the industry that has overrun their island with its fields of experimental GMOs.
Traditional mid-wife Clare Loprinzi has witnessed these sad cases first-hand, and it was one of the motivations for her own activism on the issue.
Marks reminds us that their struggle is not over.
In anticipation of the historic vote, Big Island Video News presents a timeline of the bill to ban GMOs on Hawaii Island.
Hawaii County GMO Bill 113 – TIMELINE to final reading