|© Natural News|
A pair of agri-giants has raised millions of dollars in a bid to prevent Hawaiian farmers and residents from eliminating the growth of genetically modified crops in the state.
According to a local news website, Honolulu Civil Beat (HCB), Monsanto and Dow -- two of the world's largest biotech and agricultural conglomerates, have amassed an $8 million war chest to beat back a Maui County voter initiative that would ban temporarily all GMO farming, according to documents filed with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.
Meanwhile, the website reported, proponents of the measure have spent less than $83,000; Monsanto alone has spent in excess of $5 million.
Both corporations have spent millions to defeat similar GMO bans across the country, but the website said such spending is extremely uncommon in Hawaiian politics. In fact, the amount spent thus far is a record.
"This is historic," Tony Baldomero, associate director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, told HCB. "This is the highest (amount raised) that I have ever seen since I have been here, by any candidate committee, ballot issue committee, non-candidate committee, even super PAC."
Millions spent to defeat versus thousands
The website reported further:
Maui County's ballot initiative seeks to impose a temporary moratorium on growing genetically engineered seeds until the county conducts a public health and environmental study of its impact.
The bill is the latest county measure seeking to crack down on Hawaii's $243 million seed industry, which has been the target of growing activism statewide by residents who are worried about the consequences of pesticides sprayed on genetically modified crops.
In the continental 48, Vermont was the first state to enact a measure requiring labeling of all genetically modified ingredients in foods. But months before the state legislature passed the measure, Monsanto threatened to sue the state if it passed its law; it did, and Monsanto joined a number of other pro-GMO groups in launching legal action against Vermont.
Back in Hawaii, campaign spending data from Aug. 10 to Oct. 20 indicate that a group called Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban has spent in excess of $6.3 million to defeat the local anti-GMO initiative. That's almost 10 percent of the $64.4 million that every Hawaiian political candidate has spent on campaigns from Nov. 8, 2006, to Aug. 9, 2014, according to the campaign spending commission's data.
What's more, Honolulu Civil Beat reported, the group had another $1.5 million in its political war chest as of Oct. 20.
The organization describes itself as just a citizens' group, but the overwhelming majority of its funds come from global GMO seed companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences; both corporations have business operations in Maui and Molokai that would be affected by any GMO seed and crop ban.
Latest example of how corporations run these islands
Proponents of the measure have spent a little less than $83,000 and, according to campaign spending records, have less than $6,500 remaining.
Monsanto, the HCB reported, took in more than $14 billion in revenue in 2013. The corporation farms some 3,000 acres in Hawaii's Maui County while employing 500 workers.
Dow gave more than $1.7 million to the citizen political action committee; its subsidiary, Mycogen Seeds, has about 100 people on its payroll and farms 400 acres on Molokai, one of Maui County's three islands, HCB reported, adding:
The rest of the funding came from Washington, D.C.-based Council for Biotechnology Information and another group led by Bennette Misalucha, the executive director for the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, a trade group for seed companies including Monsanto.
Mark Sheehan, a spokesman for the SHAKA Movement, the organization that managed to get enough signatures to get the measure on the November ballot, said of the corporation influence: "This is the latest and most dramatic example of how corporations run these islands."