Federal judge strikes down Maui County’s GM crop ban.

  • As recently covered on this blog, various counties in Hawaii and Oregon have enacted bans on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops.  Those jurisdictions have been facing legal and practical hurdles related to enforcement of the GM restrictions.
  • On June 30, 2015, a Hawaii federal judge ruled that Maui County’s ban on the cultivation of GM crops is preempted by federal and state laws, and is thus invalid.  In ruling in favor of the plaintiffs — which included Monsanto Co. and Agrigenetics, Inc. a unit of Dow Chemical Co. — the judge found the county ban to conflict with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 1987 regulation permitting cultivation of GM crops under certain circumstances, rendering it preempted by the federal Plant Protection Act.
  • Although the current decision is likely to be appealed, it highlights the continuing challenges that localities face in attempting to enact and implement GM restrictions, ranging from cultivation bans to affirmative labeling requirements on products containing GM constituents.  Unless and until the federal government takes action in this area, the result is likely to be a growing patchwork of attempted restrictions, enforcement hurdles, and legal challenges.