By Derrick DePledge
State senators are moving forward with a bill that would establish a task force to determine whether the state should develop a regulatory regime to address agricultural use of genetically modified organisms.
The chamber’s Agriculture, Higher Education and Judiciary and Labor committees heard the bill on Jan. 30. The Agriculture and Higher Education committees voted on the bill the day it was heard, but Judiciary and Labor pushed off voting on the measure until Thursday.
The committee voted to accept amendments proposed by Sen. Clarence Nishihara that replace the dean of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources with the UH’s vice president for research and innovation, Vassilis Syrmos.
Additional amendments include clarifying that the task force should first decide whether a state-based regulatory regime related to GMOs would even be necessary, and providing the task force with the discretion to add members as it sees fit.
Sen. Les Ihara, Jr., and Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom voted against the measure, and Sen. Mike Gabbard voiced reservations. No members on the other two committees voted “no” or “with reservations.”
The proposed task force would also include: the chairperson of the board of agriculture, the director of health, the president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, the president of the Hawaii Farmer's Union United and four experts with scientific knowledge in the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture selected by the governor.
-- Sarah Zoellick