By J.D. Heyes, Natural News, July 26, 2015
(NaturalNews) A federal judge has blocked a local Hawaiian ordinance banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms, making the law essentially unenforceable, at least for the time being.
Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1998, said in her ruling that federal law preempts the Maui ordinance, as it is inconsistent with the Plant Protection Act.
“It is a familiar and well-established principle that the Supremacy Clause invalidates state laws that interfere with or are contrary to federal law,” Mollway wrote after first blocking enforcement of the law in March.
Excepting a state’s historic police powers, “state laws can be preempted by federal regulations as well as by federal statutes,” she wrote in her recent ruling.
As reported by Courthouse News:
The Plant Protection Act gives the Secretary of Agriculture authority to prohibit or restrict the importation, entry, exportation, or movement in interstate commerce of any plant, plant products, biological control organism, and noxious weed.
Suddenly, the Constitution matters when it comes to GMOs
In addition, the statute also says that “no state or political subdivision of a state may regulate the movement in interstate commerce of any article, means of conveyance, plant, biological control organism, plant pest, noxious weed or plant product, in order to control a plant pest or noxious weed.”
Indeed, there are only two occasions where states may regulate the movement of plants and plant products: If the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has issued a regulation or order permitting same; or if a state demonstrates to the secretary, using verifiable scientific data and/or providing a thorough risk assessment, there is a need for more prohibitions.
In her ruling Mollway also wrote that the Maui anti-GMO ordinance “intrudes into the field of potentially dangerous plant regulation reserved exclusively to the state.”
“Any ordinance that conflicts with the intent of a state statute or legislates in an area already staked out by the legislature for exclusive and statewide statutory treatment is preempted by state law,” Mollway wrote, adding that her decision was based on legal grounds and precedent and that she did not take a position on whether GMO foods are good or bad, beneficial or dangerous.
Voters on the island of Maui approved the GMO ban by ballot measure in November. The measure made it “unlawful for any person or entity to knowingly propagate, cultivate, raise, grow or test GE organisms within the County of Maui.”
Such ordinances rarely ever are allowed to stand as is; the Maui measure was immediately challenged by pro-GMO organizations that sued the following month, seeking summary judgment that the law is preempted by the state and the federal governments, and that it too was a violation of the Maui County Charter.
Congress moving to prevent GMO labeling
Mollway’s ruling comes amid a larger struggle involving GMOs and labeling taking place on the federal level.
As McClatchy Papers reports, GMO labeling advocates are battling with members of Congress who are pushing legislation to prevent individual states from requiring foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such. The food industry has opposed the push by some states to require the labeling; thus far Vermont, Connecticut and Maine are the only states that have passed legislation mandating the labeling.
McClatchy Papers reported further:
At the center of the conflict is a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas that would block state and local laws from requiring food labels to disclose genetically engineered ingredients. …
Pompeo’s “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” would nix those laws and instead set up a voluntary nationwide labeling system overseen by the federal government.
The title of the bill is obviously – and purposefully – mislabeled, much like the president’s “Affordable Care Act.” The push to require GMO labeling is actually due to a desire among activists for safe, more accurate labeling of food; Pompeo’s bill will prevent individual states from passing and enforcing such laws while still not requiring GMO labeling of foods anywhere in the country.