Two Hawaiian counties have reportedly passed legislation designed to tighten regulations on biotech companies and the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops. After delaying the ballot to appoint a new member as a replacement for Nadine Nakamura, who vacated her seat to become Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s managing director, the Kauai County Council apparently voted 5-2 to override the mayor’s veto of a bill requiring agricultural companies to disclose information about their pesticide use and establishing no-spray zones around schools, residences, medical facilities, roads, and waterways. Slated to take effect in August 2014, the initiative has drawn criticism from seed and biotech companies, which have already considered taking the matter to court. Carvalho has also purportedly warned that the law could be open to challenge under state and federal preemption rules, the state’s Right to Farm Act and provisions in the County Charter. Additional details about the legislation appear in Issue 503 of this Update. See Civil Beat, November 16, 2013; PBS.org and The Huffington Post, November 17, 2013.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii County Council has approved (6-3) a measure seeking to restrict the expansion of GM crops on the Big Island. Introduced by council member Margaret Wille, the bill would permit the continued cultivation of transgenic papayas and other preexisting GM crops on the island but would prohibit the introduction of new GMOs as well as "open air testing of [GMOS] of any kind." To this end, the legislation would require those currently involved "in the open air cultivation, propagation, or development of genetically engineered crops or plants" to register their facilities and locations within 90 days after the rules take effect. If signed into law by Mayor Bill Kenoi, who has not yet taken a public position on the matter, the bill would also impose fines of $1,000 per day for violations. See Civil Beat, Hawaii Tribune-Herald and The Huffington Post, November 19, 2013.