HONOLULU (CN) - Genetically modified seed-sellers claim in court that a Kauai County law will subject them to "risks of corporate espionage, vandalism and environmental terrorism."
Syngenta Seeds, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Agrigenetic sued the County of Kauai in Federal Court. They want it enjoined from implementing Bill 2491, "Pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms," set to take effect on Aug. 16.
They claim the bill "irrationally prohibits plaintiffs from growing any crops, whether genetically modified or not, within arbitrarily bugger zones inapplicable to other growers, and restricts plaintiffs' pesticide use within those buffer zones. The bill also imposes unwarranted and burdensome disclosure requirements relating to pesticide usage and GM crops that compromise plaintiffs' confidential commercial information and unnecessarily expose plaintiffs to risks of corporate espionage, vandalism and environmental terrorism."
Genetically modified crops are viewed with alarm in some quarters, from people who say there is no way to tell what deleterious effects consumption of them may have. Plants that have been genetically modified to withstand poisoning pesticides - most famously, "Roundup Ready" plants resistant to the weed-killer glyphosate - encourage overuse of pesticides, according to GM plant opponents. Also, once a GM crop has been planted, bees, wind and other pollinators virtually assure that its pollen - and genes - will fertilize other plants elsewhere.
Several lawsuits have been filed by organic farms that claims their crops had been contaminated by nearby GM crops - or that there was no way to tell whether they had been contaminated or not, putting at risk their organic certification.
In this 70-page lawsuit, GM seed makers claim that Bill 2491"impermissibly attempts to regulate in an area already occupied by state and federal law" and regulations; that it "violates plaintiff's federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process by arbitrarily targeting plaintiffs - and exempting virtually all other users of pesticides, including the county itself;" that it "takes and damages plaintiffs' property;" that it "impos(es) burdensome operational restrictions and civil and criminal penalties that have no legal or factual justification;" and in other ways.
The plaintiffs say they operate on Kauai because its climate is "uniquely conducive" to plant research.
They say their research and seed production "could not have proceeded without the exhaustive review of potential health, safety and environmental risks by federal and state agencies, which have conclusively determined that (1) GM plants present no such risks, and (2) the pesticides plaintiffs use present no unreasonable risks to the environment or public health."
The agribusinesses claim the law violates state law on imposition of civil fines, violates the Kauai County Charter, is illegal "special legislation" violates the state's trade secrets act, unconstitutionally interferes with foreign affairs, violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, takes private property without compensation, violates due process and equal protection, violates the Supremacy Clause, pre-empts federal rules on pesticide disclosures, and is ultra vires
They seek declaratory judgment, an injunction and attorneys' fees.
The lawsuit, of course, is rife with contradictions on both sides. Virtually all commercial food crops have been produced by genetic modification: choosing the best plants from one year and using their seeds for the next; or cross-fertilizing plants with desirable characteristics. Luther Burbank created the nectarine by grafting together plum and peach trees. Ancient Mesoamericans created corn through centuries of creative grafting of a native grass they called teosintle.
On the other hand, the agribusinesses claim that their crops and seeds are perfectly safe, but that revealing the "science" that ostensibly proves this would reveal trade secrets.
The agribusinesses are represented by Paul Alston with Claire, Wong & Black and Margery Bronster.