GMO initiative’s signatures still being verified

It is still yet to be seen if a citizens’ initiative calling for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms in Maui County will be placed on the general election ballot on Nov. 4, Maui County Clerk Danny Mateo said Tuesday.

Mateo said his office has until Friday to verify 9,376 additional signatures that were submitted May 27 in support of the initiative.

Mateo said he expected to get a better idea of the situation by this afternoon.

“It’s been a really difficult, difficult process,” he said Tuesday, noting that his office only has 10 days to verify the signatures.

The signatures are double and triple checked, he said. Workers were reviewing signatures over the weekend and until 8:30 or 9:30 nights.

The Maui County Clerk’s office had 45 days to review the SHAKA Movement’s initial submission of more than 9,700 signatures; now the office has to do nearly the same amount in a fraction of the time, Mateo pointed out.

The SHAKA Movement submitted the additional signatures after about half of the group’s initial submissions were invalidated.

To get the initiative on the ballot, 8,465 valid signatures of registered Maui County voters are needed. SHAKA, which stands for “Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for Keiki and the Aina,” has gathered 4,720 valid signatures and needs another 3,745 for the initiative to go forward this year.

If the 8,465 valid signatures are obtained, the initiative will go to the County Council, which could approve the measure. If not, the initiative goes on the ballot.

The initiative calls for a temporary halt to GMO cultivation in Maui County until an environmental and public health impact study can be done to ensure that “agrochemical practices are safe to the environment, our citizens and to the aina for current and future generations,” SHAKA officials have said.

While the process has been challenging, Mateo said that seeing the signatures come in “tells me a citizens’ initiative is doable.” He said the group collected more than 9,000 signatures in only a month and a half.

This shows that citizens can definitely have an impact, Mateo said.

“I’m excited we are part of this,” he said.