HONOLULU—Two massive agricultural chemical companies are suing Maui County in Hawaii to challenge a new law banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms.
Agri-food juggernauts Monsanto Co. and a unit of the Dow Chemical Co. filed the lawsuit in federal court in Honolulu on November 13. They’re asking a judge to immediately prevent the law from taking effect and to invalidate the measure.
Both companies research and develop new varieties of corn in the county. Hawaii’s warm weather enables the seed companies to grow more crop cycles each year, accelerating their research. Conducting the work in a U.S. state also helps the seed companies protect their intellectual property.
However, the new law won a popular vote as County voters narrowly passed a ballot initiative last week that imposes the ban.
Monsanto vice-president John Purcell says the law interferes and conflicts with long-established state and federal laws that support the safe and lawful cultivation of GMO plants.
The lawsuit said Monsanto would have to substantially downsize its activity in the county, where it employs about 365 people and owns or leases more than 3,000 acres of farmland on Molokai and Maui islands. Mycogen Seeds, a unit of Dow AgroSciences, would shut down critical parts of its development and production operations in the county, and downsize its work force, the complaint said. Mycogen Seeds employs over 100 people and farms about 420 acres on Molokai.
Meanwhile, the initiative’s backers sued the county in state court November 12 to ensure the county implements the law.
Maui County spokesman Rod Antone says the county is unable to comment because of pending litigation.