- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii County’s law restricting the use of genetically modified crops is the target of a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Big Island agriculture groups and farmers sued Monday to overturn the law, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/1u6Et4N) reported. It’s the second legal challenge for the six-month-old law.

The law bans open-air testing of transgenic plants. It also prohibits most outdoor uses of modified agriculture.

The plaintiffs include organizations representing Big Island nurseries, papaya and banana growers and cattle ranchers. A ban on most modified crops puts the county in conflict with federal and state laws, the lawsuit said.

The law is not backed by evidence that genetically engineered crops are harmful or a danger to the environment, the lawsuit said.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who introduced the bill the council approved, referred to the lawsuit as “hogwash,” including the argument that federal agencies are doing enough oversight.

A Big Island papaya farmer in March filed a separate lawsuit challenging the law’s registration requirements in state court in Hilo.

Papaya crops are exempted by the law, but papaya growers are still required to register with the county. The lawsuit seeks to stop the registry. A temporary restraining order granted by a Hilo Circuit Court judge remains in effect.

Former state Attorney General Margery Bronster is representing the plaintiffs in both lawsuits. She is joined in the federal case by three attorneys from Washington, D.C.-based Arent Fox LLP and an attorney representing the Biotechnology Industry Organization, one of the 10 plaintiffs.

___

Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/