The question of whether there should be a moratorium on GMO Operations and Practices has been the subject of intense debate in Maui County. As voters head to the polls, the following is designed to stimulate a thoughtful review of this issue based on the questions we have been asked most often.
- What are genetically modified foods?
- What does voting “Yes” mean in the GMO Initiative?
- What does voting “No” mean in the GMO Initiative?
- What happens if I don’t vote on the GMO Initiative (also known as a blank vote)?
- What is a moratorium?
- How is the suspension of research and farming activities required by the GMO Initiative lifted? How long would that process take?
- What is the practical effect of a moratorium on a business?
- Can a study and review of GMO research and farming activity in Maui County be conducted without a moratorium?
- Are there monetary and criminal penalties for violating the GMO moratorium?
- What economic consequences would result from suspending GMO research and farming activities in Maui County?
What are genetically modified foods?
The terms “genetically modified,” “genetically engineered,” “biotechnology” and “genetically modified organisms” (GMO) are commonly used to describe foods from new plant varieties, including those developed using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines agricultural biotechnology as “a range of tools, including traditional breeding techniques that alter living organisms, or parts of organisms, to make or modify products; improve plants or animals; or develop microorganisms for specific agricultural uses. Modern biotechnology today includes the tools of genetic engineering.”
What does voting “Yes” mean in the GMO Initiative?
A “YES” vote on the GMO ballot question means you support the ordinance which would suspend GMO research and farming in Maui County as defined in the proposed initiative.
What happens if I don’t vote on the GMO Initiative (also known as a blank vote)?
Put simply, your vote will not count. Only those persons who vote either for or against the initiative will determine the outcome. So if you don’t vote a small number of people may decide this issue.
What is a moratorium?
A moratorium can be defined as a suspension of activity or an authorized period of delay or waiting. A moratorium is sometimes agreed upon by the interested parties, or it may be authorized or imposed by operation of law. The GMO Initiative would suspend and prohibit by law the exercise of what is described in the law as GMO Operations and Practices until certain conditions are met.
How is the suspension of research and farming activities required by the GMO Initiative lifted? How long would that process take?
The initiative requires an extensive process of study and review before GMO research and farming can resume in Maui County. There are no official estimates on the minimum amount of time it would take to complete the process. But a conservative calculation for the completion of the Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study outlined in Section 7 of the initiative is at least two years from start to finish.
What is the practical effect of a moratorium on a business?
Economic analysts have pointed out that any business facing a suspension of its operations would be the same as shutting the business down. The job losses and loss of economic output would be identical. In the case of the GMO initiative, a two year shutdown would end the business.
Can a study and review of GMO research and farming activity in Maui County be conducted without a moratorium?
Yes GMO research and farming activity in Maui County can be studied and reviewed without a moratorium. In the past, Maui County has organized citizen study groups on issues important to the community where there is a diversity of opinion. Recent examples of this type of collaborative process have been the Maui County General Plan and the Wastewater Community Working Group.
Are there monetary and criminal penalties for violating the GMO moratorium?
Yes there are both civil monetary and criminal penalties for violating the GMO moratorium.
Any person or entity violating the moratorium may be assessed by the Department of Environmental Management a civil monetary penalty as follows:
- $10,000.00 for a first violation;
- $25,000.00 for a second violation; or
- $50,000.00 for a third or subsequent violation
In addition to the penalties described above, any person or entity violating or causing or permitting the violation of the provisions in the initiative, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2000.00, or imprisoned not more than one (1) year, or both, for each offense.
What economic consequences would result from suspending GMO research and farming activities in Maui County?
There is a diversity of opinion on this issue. On the one hand, those who support the initiative claim there will be no (or few) job losses.
On the other hand, several economic analysts have written that the initiative would result in the loss of at least 650 jobs and $85 million dollars of annual economic output in the county, undermining agriculture’s sustainability.