Committees consider bills on GMO moratorium, Kihei housing

A bill placing a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered organisms will be considered at Monday’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee meeting at 1:30 p.m.

More than 9,000 registered voters signed an initiative petition requesting an ordinance to place a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered organisms. The county clerk determined the petition was sufficient on June 6, allowing the council 60 days, or until Aug. 5, to enact the bill.

The council referred the bill to committee on June 20 after hearing from several dozen testifiers. If the council fails to enact the ordinance by the deadline, the proposed bill will be placed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Similar legislation has been considered throughout Hawaii within the last year.

Last December, Maui County Council Member Elle Cochran introduced legislation to establish mandatory disclosure requirements for commercial agricultural entities that purchase or use certain quantities of pesticides or possess genetically modified organisms. Cochran’s proposed bill, also considered by the policy committee, sought to create pesticide buffer zones.

In January, the committee received testimony from more than 100 testifiers over two days, including more than 80 testifiers at the council’s Molokai office.

In November, the Hawaii County Council, in a 6-3 vote, passed legislation prohibiting open-air cultivation of genetically engineered crops and plants. Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, who signed the bill into law on Dec. 5, said his administration will investigate factual claims and consider new directions in farming.

Also in November, the Kauai County Council voted 5-2 to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of a pesticide-disclosure bill limiting biotech crop and pesticide use on Kauai. Three agrochemical companies subsequently challenged the ordinance in court; the case is pending.

Testimony relating to the GMO initiative petition may be emailed to, referencing PIA-78.

On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., the Land Use Committee will continue deliberations on the proposed change in zoning and community plan amendment for the 600-unit Kihei housing project proposed by A&B Properties.

The committee had a site inspection at the Kihei property last December, followed by three meetings where residents testified on the project. Residents expressing support for the development cited job and housing opportunities; those in opposition expressed concerns about traffic and other infrastructure impacts in South Maui.

Testimony for the Land Use Committee may be emailed to The item number to reference is LU-7.

To review committee meeting agendas and related items, visit The next meeting of the full council is scheduled for July 8.

A hui hou.

* Gladys C. Baisa is chairwoman of the Maui County Council and holds the council’s Pukalani-Kula-Ulupalakua area residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters.