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Hawai'i State Senate Passes Kalo Bill, Then comes the Republican Governor Who Will Veto It
The "Taro Security Bill" was approved by the state Senate on third reading Thursday, after passing in the House last month. It will ban the controversial practice of using and developing genetically modified organisms for Hawaiian varieties of taro only.
The ban, which for four years has attracted crowds to the Capitol, slipped through almost unnoticed as lawmakers approved more than 300 bills this week.
The final version of House Bill 1663 and Senate Bill 709 will be hashed out next week in conference committee before being sent to Gov. Linda Lingle for her signature.
The bill passed both chambers with near-unanimous support, ensuring the ability for an override if a veto occurred. Only Republican Oahu Sens. Fred Hemmings and Sam Slom voted against the ban.
Governor spokesman Russell Pang said that the state Department of Agriculture opposed the bill, but that Lingle had not indicated plans for a veto.
The five-year ban is a significant victory for taro farmers, Native Hawaiians and GMO opponents in general, who have repeatedly said the science remains in its infancy and that the dangers of genetic modification of food are unknown. Native Hawaiians say it's a sacred plant that should not be altered under any circumstances.
However, University of Hawaii at Manoa researchers and Monsanto agriculture company officials have argued that nearly 700 government and private studies have been done on the safety of genetically modified foods for well over a decade; and they have a perfect track record.
"For me, this is about cultural integrity," said the House bill's author, Rep. Mele Carroll, D-East Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe.
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