Report Title:

Genetically Engineered Food


Holds a person who genetically engineers organisms strictly liable for damages, injuries, illness, and allergies that may arise from the use of that product.


S.B. NO.









relating to liability for genetically engineered food.



SECTION 1. The legislature finds and declares that genetic engineering artificially transfers genes at the cellular and molecular level between species that could never naturally breed and is therefore, qualitatively different from species bred using traditional, selective breeding. Genetic engineering can be used to produce new versions of virtually all plants and animals for food. Thus, within a short time, Hawaii's food supply could consist almost entirely of genetically engineered products.

This conversion from a food supply based on selective breeding to one based on organisms produced through genetic engineering could be one of the most important changes impacting the food supply in this century. Genetically engineered food presents new issues of safety that have not been adequately studied. Some of the suspected risks include decreasing antibiotic effectiveness in treating common diseases and harming untargeted species. In addition, many of the potential effects of genetically engineered food are unpredictable and could be long-term. The biotechnology companies that create and manufacture genetically engineered food are the scientific experts regarding this technology. Therefore, the burden of ensuring environmental and human health safety should be placed on the biotechnology companies.

The purpose of this Act is to hold a person who genetically engineers food organisms strictly liable for damages caused by use of that product.

SECTION 2. Chapter 142, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new part to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:


142-   Definitions. As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:

"Crop contamination" means any transfer of genetic material from a genetically engineered growing crop by cross pollination, or other means, to a non-genetically engineered growing crop.

"Farmer" means a person who, as either a landowner or a tenant, is engaged in growing agricultural crops or agricultural products, including dairy production.

"Genetically engineered" means:

(1) An organism that has been altered at the molecular or cellular level by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes (including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid techniques, cell fusion, microencapsulation, macroencapsulation, gene deletion and doubling, introduction of foreign genes, and any process that changes the positions of genes), other than means consisting exclusively of breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in vitro fertilization, or tissue culture; or

(2) The offspring of an altered organism, if the offspring possesses any of the changed molecular or cellular characteristics of the parent.

"Genetically engineered food" means items for human consumption that contain or were produced using seeds or hormones that consist wholly or partly of genetically engineered organisms.

"Person" shall be as defined pursuant to section 1-19.

"Strict liability" means absolute liability for any damages that result from the use of genetically engineered organisms without respect to intention or negligence.

142-   Strict liability. (a) Any person who genetically engineers organisms for their use as food, including seeds, hormones, and other products, shall be strictly liable in tort for damages caused by the use of their products; provided, however, that the harm was not the result of another person violating reasonable safety precautions that were outlined in a signed agreement by both persons. The damages shall include:

(1) Human health effects, including:

(A) Allergies resulting from added proteins, including proteins not found in the food supply;

(B) Exposure to toxic proteins or other substances added to genetically engineered food or caused by the effects of genetic engineering;

(C) Nutritional loss due to cellular changes; and

(D) A decrease in antibiotic resistance because of the spread of antibiotic resistance genes that are used during genetic engineering.

(2) Environmental harm, including:

(A) Death or injury to non-targeted plants, animals, and other species;

(B) Soil destruction; and

(C) The spreading of plants or insects resistant to pesticides or herbicides through unintended gene transfer.

(3) Crop contamination, including:

(A) Loss of any premium price which would have accrued to a farmer of non-genetically engineered products by contract or other marketing arrangement, or which would have otherwise been reasonably available to the farmer through ordinary commercial channels;

(B) Any additional transportation, storage, handling, or related charges or costs incurred by the farmer which would not have been incurred in the absence of crop contamination; and

(C) Any judgment, charge, or penalty for which the farmer of non-genetically engineered products is liable due to breach of contract including loss of organic certification, for failing to deliver a crop free of genetically engineered material, or for delivering a crop exceeding any contractually agreed upon tolerance levels regarding the presence of genetically engineered material.

(b) Any farmer bringing an action under subsection (a) shall have the burden of proving that the farmer has not grown a genetically engineered crop of the same type for which the contamination action is brought.

(c) Rights and remedies under this section are in addition to any other rights or remedies otherwise available or penalties that may otherwise be imposed."

SECTION 3. This Act shall apply only to causes of action based upon acts or omissions occurring on or after its effective date.

SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.