Hawaii Island farmers file lawsuit to stop GMO testing ban

The battle over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is heating up.

More than a half dozen Hawaii Island farmers filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday to try and force the County of Hawaii to halt a ban on all open-air testing of genetically altered crops.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that the law negatively affects farmers by restricting their options to create crops that are resistant to disease and foreign pests.

They say without that flexibility, the future of crops like bananas, orchids and other tropical flowers is in jeopardy, but at the heart of their argument is who is responsible for regulating the industry.

“Our position is that it’s not the county’s job, that the regulation of (agriculture) is done by the state. It’s done by the federal government,” said plaintiffs’ attorney, Margery Bronster. “There really isn’t a role for the counties to get involved in the regulation of agriculture.”

Hawaii County passed the bill in December 2013.

County lawyers say they are reviewing the lawsuit.

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