Councilman drops changes to GMO bill


County Council Chairman J Yoshimoto is dropping his proposed amendments to Bill 113 after receiving negative feedback from the public.

The amendments, filed Nov. 5, would have exempted the horticulture industry from the bill’s ban on open-air use of transgenic crops, removed a registry for modified plants, and allowed the planning commissions to hear proposals for emergency exemptions.

Yoshimoto said he filed the changes to address criticism of the bill from the horticulture industry, papaya growers and other testifiers.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who introduced the bill, had said the amendments would weaken the legislation.

Yoshimoto said he heard similar concerns as well as questions over whether it was too late to hear such substantial changes.

Public testimony is expected to finish Tuesday.

Wille said she was glad to hear the amendments would be dropped, adding that any concerns with the legislation can be addressed in a GMO ad hoc committee that may be formed if the bill is adopted.

The committee would be tasked with studying the issue and proposing changes to the legislation, she said.

Yoshimoto said he would have preferred for the committee to be formed first, but remains supportive of the proposal.

Yoshimoto and Wille both said they expect a vote to be reached at the Tuesday meeting, after testimony concludes. If approved, it would be sent to Mayor Billy Kenoi for consideration. Kenoi can sign the bill, veto it, or let it go into effect without his signature.

He told Stephens Media Hawaii last week that it’s too early to comment since the bill has yet to be sent to him.

“We just look forward to see what emerges from the County Council,” Kenoi said. “There’s a lot of questions as to what will be in or won’t be in.

“We wish the County Council luck.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.