Council debates GMO ad hoc committee


Tribune-Herald staff writer

The Hawaii County Council took no action on a proposed ad hoc committee regarding genetically modified crops on Tuesday after finding little need to continue the discussion on the controversial topic following the adoption of a bill restricting their use last month.

The group was intended as a follow-up to the passing of Bill 113 and could have included up to four council members. It would have been responsible for discussing topics such as whether transgenic and non-transgenic crops can “coexist” and the start of a non-genetically modified “heritage seed bank” for the Big Island.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who introduced Bill 113 and one of the two ad hoc committee proposals, had referred to it as a means to continue the discussion regarding genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and possibly offer ways to improve the new law.

But several council members while discussing the proposal in the Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee questioned how effective it could be with the law just being put in place and said they preferred to leave the matter in the hands of the administration.

Puna Councilman Zendo Kern also said he would have preferred to have formed such a committee before adopting the bill.

“I believe it should have been done prior to passing the bill as everyone knows,” he said.

“It makes sense right now to let the administration start with that,” Kern added.

Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha agreed.

“I’m on the grounds that we passed the bill, it moves to the administration to enforce,” he said.

Council Chair J Yoshimoto, who offered the other ad hoc committee proposal, said he also wanted to wait to see what the state Legislature does regarding GMOs in Hawaii.

After several recesses, Wille withdrew her proposal.

Initially, she failed to get a second to her motion to bring it up for discussion. South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford supported it but couldn’t provide the second to the motion as chair of the committee.

That prompted her to immediately adjourn the meeting, which frustrated a few council members who wanted to discuss Yoshimoto’s version.

Ford and Wille accused the other council members of avoiding accountability by not allowing Wille’s version to come up for discussion.

Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan and Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter told the Tribune-Herald that they didn’t see it that way.

“This (ad hoc committee) is what I want to talk about,” Ilagan said.

The meeting was later restarted but without any further action.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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