The US Court of Appeals ruled back in mid December that federal laws cannot be used to prohibit states and counties from creating laws regulating, labeling, and even banning genetically modified crops.
This monumental decision by the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals was a ruling regarding whether federal and Hawaii state laws supersede the authority of individual counties to regulate the use of genetically modified crops and pesticide use.
Because of its almost limitless growing season and its being a testing ground for all kinds of Monsanto genetic experimentation and modifications, Hawaii has been in the middle of the debates over Genetic Modification for decades as Monsanto and others have used the islands for many kinds of agricultural research and local farmers have vigorously resisted them. This is a victory for Hawaii's farmers and for the 7000 year old history of agriculture itself.
Many of these same companies have abused the very concept of research by spraying 20 times more insecticides and pesticides than is permitted in the mainland of the United States.
The most egregious violations occurred in 2012, when 18 tons of chemicals prohibited in Europe like atrazine, paraquat, and others, were broadcast all over Kauai, an island with a land mass of about 20 by 30 miles. A large jump in birth defects occurred almost immediately, and schoolchildren were hit heavily with lung problems and eye irritations, according to reports from many physicians on the island, plus a 50% jump in special education statistics over the rest of the islands.
The relevant Court of Appeals decision was welcomed in the many desperate Hawaiians. The decision will partially limit the unbridled and abusive powers exercised by Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Sygenta, and other "research" corporations.
Federal law does not prevent state or local governments from passing local laws which regulate or ban the commercial growing of GM crops. By such a ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recognized the medical harm that wold derive from large scale GM agriculture. They wrote that "the cultivation and testing of GE [genetically engineered] plants raises several well-documented concerns."
The ruling is entirely consistent with the 9th and 10th Amendment to the US Constitution which allows states to exercise control over areas that are not explicitly claimed by prior federal statutes and other measures passed by Congress. How is this ruling relevant?
By ruling that "the regulation of commercialized crops, both of GE and traditional varieties, remains within the authority of state and local governments," they temporarily put a stop to unchecked corporate abuses of reasonable health standards.
The court ruled that "transgenic contamination has previously caused significant economic impacts on farmers of conventional, non-GE crops," and that the "cultivation of GE crops also may raise environmental concerns, such as harm to beneficial plants and animals caused by the increased use of pesticides sometimes associated with testing and growing GE crops, the proliferation of 'superweeds' and other pests resistant to pesticides, and the reduction of biodiversity."
How long will this stand up? At least, until it is heard by the United States Supreme Court, which may or may not uphold the Circuit Court of Appeals. Strategically, the corporations will most likely wait until the Trump administration appoints a new Supreme Court Justice, but even then, Justice Clarence Thomas might have to recuse himself, having worked formerly as a Monsanto corporate lawyer. He left his job in the administration of John Danforth, Missouri's Attorney General, when Danforth was elected to the United States to become a Monsanto corporate lawyer for 3 years, from 1976 to 1979.
Would that disqualify him from ruling on a corporate driven appeal of the 9th's decision? In a sane world, yes, one would think so. I would hope he would voluntarily and ethically recuse himself from this one, if it is to be heard at all.
This decision could be viewed as an important vindication of local and state governments and their powers. Yet, inexplicably to me, it will barely advance the cause of Hawaii communities hoping to regulate or ban GMOs and pesticide use.
Something for the Hawaii Legislature to take up, for sure, and of the 25 members of the state Senate, only five or six Senators I believe have the integrity, courage, and intelligence to take this further in specific legislation. There will be posturing there for sure, but remember also that Hawaii's Governor, David Ige, have proven that he is willing to be a veiled but deadly tool for Monsanto, even as a public relations gesture when it pertains to products no longer made by Monsanto.