If you ever think your vote doesn’t matter, think again. Maui County is a shining example of what happens when concerned people get behind the vote.
A Maui County ballot initiative to temporarily ban genetically engineered crops passed Tuesday by a mere 1,077 votes. This followed one of the most heavily financed political campaigns in state history.
Even with the lowest voter turnout in Hawaii state history, the controversial measure pulled ahead late Tuesday, passing 50 percent to 48 percent — a difference of just 1,077 votes. It was an awesome turnaround, after the measure was initially losing by 19 percent when the first results rolled in, and opponents were already bragging on TV.
The county’s first-ever ballot initiative targeting global agriculture companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences attracted nearly $8 million from opponents, making it the most expensive campaign in Hawaii’s history.
Kaniela Ing, State Representative, Wailea and Makena, interviewed after the returns said, “It’s a rinky-dink Island….and the big corporations spent $8 million to defeat this. They said, “How dare you think you can run your own island? ”
But the people have spoken and won (for now) in what is essentially a David and Goliath story. When asked why he thought the initiative passed, Mark Sheehan, PhD, one of the proponent group SHAKA founders, said he thought it was the issue of the pesticides in the water and the keiki (children’s) futures.
Both the drinking water and our water playground. Think about it….all those votes from surfers, paddlers, snorkelers, and divers.
Ashley Lukens, who directs the Hawaii chapter of the Center for Food Safety, a national nonprofit that has been lobbying for more regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), said Maui County residents deserve all the credit for the turnaround.
“I think that this is a really strong message to the entire agrochemical industry in the state of Hawaii that we are no longer going to sit idly by and watch them expand their operations without the kinds of regulations that ensure the health and safety of people across Hawaii,” Lukens said.
Opponents outspent advocates more than 87 to 1, according to the latest campaign spending reports available Tuesday. That amounts to more than $300 for every “no” vote.
But it still wasn’t enough to beat scores of Maui County residents who spent weeks canvassing, sign-waving and calling friends to share their concerns about seed companies’ farming practices.
Hawaii is a key location for the seed industry because the state’s weather allows for year-long farming. But residents on all islands have become increasingly concerned about how GMO farming and its pesticide use may be impacting both health and the environment.
Monsanto owns or leases 3,100 acres on Maui and Molokai, and employs about 540 people, including part-time or seasonal workers. Dow AgroSciences’ affiliate Mycogen Seeds farms about 400 acres on Molokai and employs around 100 people.
But the measure isn’t out of the woods yet.
A Federal judge ruled that Kauai’s law meant to restrict the use of GMO’s and pesticides is invalid. “If the big corporations spent $8 million on this, you can imagine what they’re prepared to spend to fight it,” said State Representative Kaniela Ing.
But there is hope. The people have spoken.
(Facts sourced from civilbeat.com Nov. 4th, 2014. Article by Anita Hofschneider)
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