Farmer sues over GMO rule

HILO (AP) – A Big Island papaya farmer is suing for relief from new registration requirements for growers of genetically modified crops.

The lawsuit filed this week claims the county’s new registration law is “burdensome and intrusive.”

Papaya crops are exempted by the county’s new law restricting the planting of genetically modified crops to enclosed structures such as greenhouses. But papaya growers are still required to register with the county.

Violations could include penalties of a fine of up to $1,000 per day.

According to the lawsuit, the unnamed plaintiff cultivates a variety of papaya that was genetically engineered for resistance to a destructive virus.

“Plaintiff brings this action because he reasonably believes that, if he is forced to provide his confidential information to the county, he faces a genuine risk that the information will be disclosed to third parties and cause plaintiff irreparable harm from vandalism, intimidation and misappropriation of his trade secrets,” the lawsuit said.

County attorneys were evaluating the lawsuit, and Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who sponsored the bill, said she expected there to be lawsuits, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

Hawaii Farmers & Ranchers United is supporting the lawsuit. The group’s spokeswoman said in a statement that registration and disclosure requirements “unfairly target growers of genetically engineered crops, primarily papaya growers, by forcing them to disclose personal and commercially confidential information about themselves and their operations without any scientific or factual justification.”