Diary

Image: KARLEANNE MATTHEWS

COUNCIL DODGE

A motion to restore a genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling bill to the Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) 2012 legislative package failed in the Honolulu City Council Nov. 27, with only two members in support.

“What’s it gonna take [to get GMO labeling passed]?” asked Councilmember Tom Berg, who introduced the motion.

Only measures approved by all four counties are included in the final HSAC package submitted to the State House and Senate. Maui’s statewide GMO labeling bill was approved by the other three counties, but was removed from Honolulu’s Resolution 12-319 regarding the HSAC package. Another hot-button issue, the repeal of Act 55 (abolishing the Public Land Development Corporation), was also omitted. Berg (District 1) introduced a revised version, 12-319, CD1, to restore the GMO legislation. Ann Kobayashi (District 5) seconded his motion, but had to leave before the vote. Of the seven councilmembers in attendance, only Breene Harimoto (District 8) joined Berg in voting yes.

The meeting lasted over three hours, with nearly 30 community members giving testimony that was unanimously in support of GMO labeling. Much of the testimony was emotionally charged. “How dare you take [GMO labeling] out of the package to even be voted on?” asked Wendy Willis, who also called the Council (excluding Berg) corrupt. Lori Nakamura-Higa was moved to tears when speaking about GMOs from a mother’s perspective.

Almost all the speakers emphasized health risks and the public’s right to know. “Monsanto is spraying their cornfields with the active ingredient of Agent Orange. . . . I want to know if that’s what I’m eating,” said Hesh Goldstein, who hosts “Health Talk” on K-108.

“We are lab rats against our will,” said Nomi Carmona, founder of Babes Against Biotech. “The FDA, USDA and EPA will not protect us. . . . We must move this from the ground up.”

Walter Ritte, of Molokai, criticized the Council for blocking the will of other counties. “This cannot be Oahu-centric,” he said.

Community members discussing their next steps after the meeting said they would continue to fight. “You don’t just lie down,” said doctor Melissa Yee.

The GMO bill could have been addressed again at the Dec. 5 meeting, since Dec. 6 is the final deadline for HSAC proposals. But at the last moment, Council Chair Ernie Martin decided against its inclusion on the agenda, and did not respond to a request for comment by presstime.