S.B. NO.



















SECTION 1. The legislature finds that the economic health of the State's agricultural sector is critical to the overall health of the State's economy and the successful interdependence between those two components turns in major part on the esteemed reputation of Hawaii farmers and their agricultural products.

Growth in genetically modified agricultural production, which uses genetic engineering to produce agricultural products, has been swift and pervasive throughout the nation. However, the quick acceptance of the new technology by American farmers may pose serious consequences for conventional agriculture ─ consequences that scientists do not yet fully understand. Those consequences have created doubt within the farming community and Congress about the wisdom of growing genetically modified agricultural products.

The greatest potential harm of genetically modified crops is that the use of genetically modified seeds and plants by a farmer could unintentionally alter the crops being produced by a neighboring farmer or alter other plants or animals, including insects and microorganisms that interact with domestic crops or plants and animals within the natural environment.

No practical way of safeguarding against this risk is available, other than abstaining from the use of genetically modified material. Furthermore, the effect on the United States economy is significant. In June 2014, Reuters reported that over a seven-month period, China had rejected 1,450,000 metric tons of United States corn found to contain a banned genetically modified strain, which cost the United States agricultural industry up to an estimated $2,900,000,000.

The counties of Kauai, Hawaii, and Maui previously adopted ordinances to restrict the growing of genetically modified organisms. However, in August 2014, a federal district court judge struck down the Kauai county ordinance, ruling that it was preempted by state law. The Hawaii county ordinance was struck down in federal district court in November 2014 and the Maui county ordinance declared unenforceable by a federal district court in June 2015; both courts held that the ordinances were preempted by state and federal law. Although all three cases were appealed, in November 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the lower federal courts' decisions. As a result, there is no ban or partial ban of genetically modified organisms in effect in Hawaii.

In light of the great uncertainty surrounding the safety of emerging biotechnologies and their effects upon human health, government must respond in a rational and compassionate way. The "precautionary principle", while not a new concept, has gained acceptance in Europe and within the scientific community. Perhaps the best known formulation of this principle within the scientific community is the Wingspread Statement, which states in pertinent part: "Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle: When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically." In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. When government faces a decision regarding the introduction of technologies where the health and safety consequences to the public are unknown, the precautionary principle provides that precautionary measures should be taken, even if the risk to the public is uncertain, to mitigate possible negative consequences.

The purpose of this Act is to require the department of agriculture to adopt the precautionary principle in order to anticipate, prevent, or minimize the adverse effects of biotechnology and genetic engineering.

SECTION 2. Chapter 141, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"141-   Precautionary principle; precautionary measures; biotechnology and genetic engineering. The department of agriculture shall take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent, or minimize the adverse effects of biotechnology and genetic engineering. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing the application of precautionary measures, taking into account that policies and measures taken by the department of agriculture shall be at the lowest reasonable cost. To achieve this, the department shall consider policies and measures that take into account different socioeconomic contexts, are comprehensive, cover all relevant sources, and comprise all agricultural sectors."

SECTION 3. New statutory material is underscored.

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








Report Title:

Genetic Engineering; Precautionary Principle; Precautionary Measures



Mandates the Department of Agriculture to take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent, or minimize the adverse effects of biotechnology and genetic engineering.




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