On August 25, 2014, US Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled in favor of several companies seeking to stop the October rollout of Kauai’s local law requiring that food labels denote the presence of genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”) and of pesticides.
Whether food labels must disclose use of GMOs is hotly debated, and voters in many states will consider GMO-labeling measures in November. Residents of Maui County, Hawaii, are even scheduled to vote on whether all use of GMOs should be discontinued pending a health and environmental study.
Originally scheduled for implementation in August 2014, Kauai County Ordinance 960 would have restricted use of pesticides near schools, hospitals, and other sensitive areas. Ordinance 960 would also have required food labels to disclose use of pesticides or of GMOs. Challengers to Ordinance 960 sought a permanent injunction from the federal court.
Judge Kurren decided that Ordinance 960 was preempted, and therefore unenforceable, due to the broad and encompassing coverage of pesticide use by the Hawaii Pesticide Law. However, Judge Kurren left open the possibility that a state amendment to the Hawaii Pesticide Law could resurrect Ordinance 960. Supporters of Ordinance 960 are already considering their legal options.
Additionally, a bipartisan bill prohibiting state GMO-labeling laws is pending in the US House of Representatives. The bill is currently being considered by the House Subcommittee on Health.