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Kauai council OKs $75K for defense in GMO case

February 14, 2014
The Maui News

LIHUE (AP) - The Kauai County Council has authorized spending $75,000 to hire attorneys to defend a new law regulating the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops by large agricultural businesses.

The 5-0 council vote, taken Wednesday with two members absent, will allow the county attorney to hire outside legal services to answer a lawsuit filed in federal court last month by Syngenta Seeds, DuPont Pioneer and Agrigenetics Inc., which does business as Dow AgroSciences.

County officials will select special counsel from a pre-qualified list of 17 attorneys.

The county had initially planned to rely on donated services, and several firms had previously offered pro bono legal help.

But the county said it received only one response to its formal request for pro bono services. The county rejected that attorney's submission, partly because of a lack of relevant qualifications.

Today is the deadline for the county to notify the court of its legal representation.

Some council members expressed concern that the initial allocation would fall short.

"Is $75,000 sufficient for the Syngenta v. County of Kauai case?" Councilman Mel Rapozo asked First Deputy Attorney Jennifer Winn. "I can tell you, just looking at what we went through last week, that is going to be used up in a week or a month."

Rapozo said the council should create a budget to prevent outside attorneys from extending the county's costs.

In the lawsuit, the companies claim that the new law is "fatally flawed" and pre-empted by state and federal laws that regulate pesticides and genetically modified organisms. They contend that the ordinance will increase risks of commercial espionage, vandalism and misappropriation of trade secrets, and inhibit farming activities.

BASF, a fourth seed company that operates on Kauai, is not part of the lawsuit. A company representative has said it is still reviewing the situation and exploring its options.



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