Sunday, January 1, 2012

GMO Labeling Bill 11-339, Summary and Link to the Actual Text of the Bill

What's most compelling to me about the GMO Labeling Bill presented to the four counties: Oahu, Big Island, Kauai, and Maui, is not the bill itself but the citizen effort behind the bill. I'm humbled and inspired by people like Courtney Bruch who flew from Maui to Oahu to testify for this bill on 12/7/11, as well as all the other people working behind the scenes. Ramoda Prem Anand, a Maui citizen, authored the bill and many people were involved in getting it successfully passed by the county councils of Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. I realized as I was writing this post, that I actually hadn't seen the bill itself, so after digging around, found the actual wording of GMO labeling bill item 11-339. You have to scroll down to page 13 or so - it's the third item in the package, after the traffic and housing bills. (Later on, I realized this link was in Oahu council member Tom Berg's email.)

Note: this blog post has been culled and sifted from multiple online sources, and I have tried to include links to those sources. 

Goal: The plan was to bring the GMO labeling resolution, item 11-339, to all four counties to vote on whether to approve this bill for inclusion in the Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) package of bills which would go straight to the state legislature in January.  The GMO labeling would not regulate field trials or the GMO industry but would disclose GMO food items for consumers in retail stores. The bill does not require restaurant food to be labeled. 

Results so far:
Maui County voted in support of the GMO labeling bill in October.
Kauai County voted in support of the GMO labeling bill on December 1st.
On December 7th, the Big Island, Hawaii County also voted in support of this GMO bill for inclusion in the HSAC package.
On December 7th, the Honolulu City Council (the council for all of Oahu) voted to keep the GMO labeling bill out of the HSAC package, after a bit of drama.

Outcome and next steps:
The next plan is to introduce the GMO labeling bill directly to the state legislature. So more testimony, phone calls and emails will be asked for, probably in the next few weeks!

SO… what happened on Oahu?
On November 15th, the members of the Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs Committee proposed and unanimously passed an amendment to remove item 11-339, the GMO labeling resolution, from the HSAC package of bills.  From reading various online commentaries, it appears that Stanley Chang authored the 11/15 floor draft to remove the GMO labeling bill from the HSAC package, and that Nestor Garcia was the council member who introduced Chang’s floor draft.

The five members of the Oahu Council’s Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs Committee are (confirmed by the Honolulu City Council website):
Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo Chair
Tom Berg Vice-chair
Stanley Chang
Breen Harimoto
Nestor Garcia

These five members did NOT represent the entire council, and their action compromised the efforts in the other counties. What allows five members of a nine–member council on one island to cast aside a bill that has been receiving support from the rest of the state? 

As of 11/15/11, Hawaii County had not voted on this bill, but on December 7th, they also voted in favor of it.

A few notes about the members of this committee:

Nestor Garcia was the one who proposed the amendment to remove the bill. His district includes the Kunia agricultural area (Monsanto, Syngenta, Hawaii Crop Improvement Association).  Nestor Garcia is also executive director of the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, where his $60,000/year salary is greater than his city council member salary. The Republican Party recently filed an ethics violation concerning Nestor Garcia. The rest of the city council is divided about his ethics

As chair of the committee, Tulsi Gabbard was also active in removing the GMO labeling bill, which other online commentators find ironic since her father Sen. Mike Gabbard is a vegetarian, ran a health food store in the 80s, and has actively campaigned for a GMO labeling bill

How the Council could have reinstated the bill back into the HSAC package:
To bring back the GMO bill to the HSAC package required a member to propose a floor draft. Council member Tom Berg, part of the original committee which voted down the bill, proposed a floor draft to reinstate the bill but needed a second council member to support it. His floor draft was apparently not the same as the original proposal, since he asked for GMO labeling through mandatory signage in stores, as opposed to labeling of food items.  
The council apparently only began to hear testimony at 4 pm, and no second council member supported Berg’s floor draft, Resolution 11-339, CD1, Proposed FD1 (TB). Source:
Another approach is that the council could have re-inserted the GMO labeling clause back into Stanley Chang's Floor Draft FD1 (SC), the draft which I think originally removed the bill, and which the Safety Committee approved on 11/15.
Despite a flurry of testimony prior to the meeting through phone calls and emails, the council voted to support Stanley Chang’s original floor draft which had the GMO labeling clause removed, Resolution 11-339, CD1, Proposed FD1 (SC). In short, 8 council members voted to keep the GMO labeling clause out of the HSAC package with only Tom Berg voting against it. 
Both floor drafts were listed under Resolution 11-339 CD1, in the CR-347.
Reports from the Hearing:
At the hearing on December 7th, the biotech interests were well-represented according to observers. Many biotech people testified towards the end of the hearing. One notable lobbyist was Alicia Maluafiti, who observers say is originally from the mainland but has a local last name from a former marriage. As Executive Director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, she said she didn't want the cost of food to rise because of labeling requirements.  One blogger “says the 990 tax form for the Association lists her compensation as $90,000 in 2010 for a 30 hr week (although this might be prorated throughout the year). She also lobbies for 2 other groups, a GMO fish corp, and an energy company.” Other commentators noted her “fake pidgin accent.” 
For more commentary on the hearing:!/2011/12/let-people-speak-label-gmos-hearing.html
Another Facebook commentator noted that Mazie Hirono's district includes the three counties which voted for the GMO labeling bill.

The GMO labeling bill is still a hot issue for 2012. Expect to hear more calls for action!

My limited involvement with this issue so far:

When I got the email from Courtney Bruch in late November, my first reaction was to shut down. The issue seemed overwhelming and I couldn't/didn't feel up to making any phone calls or email testimony.   A few days later, I re-read her email and realized the hearing was in a couple of days. So, I set my timer for 15 minutes and made phone calls to the nine council members on Oahu. I got more voicemail machines than actual people. In no instance did I talk with an actual council member, only their aides. The task took all of about 15 minutes. Then I wrote a very short email and sent it to all the council members. This also took just a few minutes. 

The next day, I called my mother on Oahu and gave her all the phone numbers, names, and asked her to call and bother them. She has more free time than I do. I also talked with two friends on Oahu. They are politically aware and active, but didn't know anything about this bill. They promised to make phone calls and send emails. This second part took more time but was a great way to re-connect with people. 

The issue initially seems daunting, but the bill itself is very short, only four or five pages. The amount of work that other citizens have done is tremendous, and I'm amazed they have gotten this far. My next task was to synthesize the information about the bill and the political action so far. I've been avoiding doing this post for weeks because there is SO much information and I've been wanting an overview, but I think it's really important.  

My advice to everyone else - read a little bit, stop, absorb it, and then do a little more. No need to tackle it all at once. A lot of people have already done the dirty work. Then speak up - make your phone calls or send your emails. If you don't think you have the time, just set a timer for a few minutes and make one email. Don't let it overwhelm you. Be inspired by how far this bill has gotten. Also, I'm recalling what someone else said last fall - there are many ways to "occupy" a system - one can "occupy" phone lines by making so many phone calls, it overwhelms a business. 

Happy New Year!  Don't be daunted. Be inspired!

A few video resources:

Maui county policy committee on 9/14/11 on the GMO labeling bill:

This is tremendously time consuming to take a 2 1/2 hour video and then post it to youtube.  I'm very thankful someone else did this. 

Documentary: The World According to Monsanto.

Appendix 1:
Resources, blog posts and commentary on the GMO labeling effort:
·        GMO Free Oahu:

GMO Free Maui:!/groups/147568151924562/

The Actual text of GMO bill 11-339
The actual voting on December 7th re: the various floor drafts:

Written testimony presented by Denise Snyder to the Oahu City Council:

"Hawaii has more experimental field trials of genetic engineering THAN ANY OTHER STATE IN THE NATION.
Just a few of the many examples of permits granted for field trials include:
*Corn engineered with human genes (Dow)
*Sugarcane engineered with human genes (Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center)
*Corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University)
... *Tobacco engineered with lettuce genes (University of Hawai‘i)
*Rice engineered with human genes (Applied Phytologics)
*Corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene)1"

(From as posted on various Facebook pages.)

Appendix 2:
List of Honolulu City Council Members as of December 7th, 2011 meeting (provided by Courtney Bruch):
Tom Berg
Phone: (808) 768-5001

Ernest Y. Martin
Phone: (808) 768-5002

Ikaika Anderson
Phone: (808) 768-5003

Stanley Chang
Phone: (808) 768-5004

Ann Kobayashi
Phone: (808) 768-5005

Tulsi Gabbard
Phone: (808) 768-5006

Romy M. Cachola
Phone: (808) 768-5007

Breene Harimoto
Phone: (808) 768-5008

Nestor R. Garcia
Phone: (808) 768-5009

Group email list:,,,,,,,,,

Appendix 3:
Courtney Bruch’s letter after the December 7th hearing to Oahu Councilman Stanley Chang and cc'd to all Oahu Council Members

Dear Council Member Stanley Chang,

I request that you reinsert the original HSAC GMO Labeling Res., introduced by Maui County, supported by all 3 counties, excluding OahuPlease place this on the agenda to be voted on at the next Council Meeting.

I flew in from Maui and testified for GMO Labeling at the last meeting. I was very sad yesterday because it feel like the council members were already decided before that meeting how they would be 'supporting' and that the information that I had received from the Maui Council Legal Attorney didn't seem to match the rules in Oahu according to Chair Ernie Martin. I realize more education is needed. As more independent non-biased studies emerge (and they will).  I believe the Oahu Council members will regret their decision in this matter especially being the only county that did not vote in support of GMO Labeling.

You mentioned that people who wanted to stay away from GMO's could just 'buy organic'. You make it sound very simple. The reality is many people do not buy organic, do not shop at health food stores or farmer's markets and have NEVER heard of gmos. I meet people like this often. I will say the awareness about gmo is growing. There was written testimony that you should have received from a 71 yr. old woman who mentioned that buying Organic is a luxury, she is on a limited income and she wants to buy healthy nutritious food that's clearly labeled if it's gmo. All foods that aren't 'organic' are not automatically gmo either. I hope you are reconsidering your perspective on your reasoning because what you stated about 'just buy organic' doesn't hold water.

In my opinion the perspective that I heard from you discriminates against people in these three ways:
1. people who have not received education that gmos have entered the food supply and/or don't know what they are
2. low income families who feel they can not afford organic food
3. conventional farmers who don't grow organic but whose products may not be purchased by consumers who are trying to avoid gmos

Another thing to consider is that GMO are seeping into the organic industry. It's unfortunately inevitable especially left in the hands of the USDA and FDA who as I clearly displayed in my oral testimony. are not trustworthy in this regard due to the revolving door between the Federal Government, Monsanto and other Bio-tech companies. Cont. below...

I hope that you and all the council members are keeping an open mind and will continue to educate yourselves on this important matter. This affects you on a daily basis. Nestor helped the Maui group find access to the parking garage after the meeting. I was pleased to see that he initiated a conversation with Jennifer Warren and asked some great questions concerning gmos that I wished she had the opportunity to speak on during her testimony. Yo Kobayashi, Jennifer Warren and Dr. Lorrin Pang are excellent resources on these matters. Please contact us when you come to Maui. We would love to talk story with you and any other council member that would like to learn more.

I hope you are reading the Facing Hawaii's Future Book I gifted you.

I look forward to hearing your response especially concerning how just buying organic is not the answer for people who want to eat non-gmo food. Please prepare an HSAC floor draft that proposes the original GMO Labeling Resolution and place that on the Council agenda to be heard at the next Oahu Council Meeting.

Courtney Bruch

Appendix 4:
Courtney Bruch’s post on Facebook from Ramoda Prem Anand, Maui ~concerning the HSAC GMO Labeling Resolution he wrote:
"Aloha Courtney and all who read this, we succeeded and we should be joyous. We should have a party as soon as possible in honor of all the work that was done. I won't organize it, but we should have a party to celebrate. Maybe at one of our community centers. I'm shocked, in a way, that it made it all the way to Honolulu; it passed every county but one. This is why I support Occupy Wallstreet. Because two people who didn't know what the hell they were doing were able to get a bill all the way to Honolulu. I was just frustrated about a problem that I saw-the lack of GMO labeling. People told me-'no, it won't pass, it won't pass the Big won't pass Maui.' Now we need individual county councils to enact GMO labeling because, obviously there is support out there. And keep supporting my efforts to introduce bills. Without Tiff, Kabba, Raje, Dave, Melissa, Mele Carroll, Kalani English, Rosalyn Baker, Elle Cochran, and many others, I would not have been able to do this."
Appendix 5:
Email from Tom Berg
Sent: Monday, December 5, 2011 5:45 PM
Subject: Councilman Tom Berg Floor amendment to insert a GMO bill into Reso. 11-339 CD1

Aloha Friends,

Thank you very much for writing to me about your concerns regarding the need to
distinguish or identify for the consumer GMO from Non-GMO produce/products.
Please be sure to submit your testimony to<>  see below for instructions.

I am offering a floor amendment at the full Council meeting on Wednesday,
December 7, 2011 AM to to insert a GMO resolution into the HSAC package.
Please see COUNCIL AGENDA.<>  Please see TOM BERG FD1<,%20CD1,%20PROPOSED%20FD1%20(TB).pdf>.

I do believe that this important issue must be addressed and we are searching for
a method to accomplish this goal. The State Legislature tackled frozen bread versus
"fresh" recently and that type of labeling issue---  and they came up with a compromise
for starters that provides for signage instead to identify frozen bread sold next to authentic "fresh bread."

Someone will need to second my motion, if not, and then the proposal for signage is moot that day. It may be that other members would entertain it at another time but I am going forward with this so that at least we continue the discussions.

Thank you for your input on this issue.


Tom Berg

City Council of Honolulu



Persons wishing to testify on items listed on the morning calendar are requested to register by 10 a.m. in the interest of time management as follows:

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Each speaker shall not have anyone else read their statement and is limited to:

a.                  three-minute presentation on New Business and Sunshined items;
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If you wish to submit written testimony:

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By submitting written testimony, you are not automatically registered to speak.  Refer to “SPEAKER REGISTRATION” procedures above.

If submitted, written testimonies, including the testifier’s address, e-mail address and phone number, may be posted by the City Clerk and available to the public on the City’s DocuShare Website.

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Honorary Certificates will be presented at 9 a.m.


  1. Hey Courtney! Came over from the facebook group. Wow. I'm so inspired by the work that so many have done and by you for putting this post together! It motivates me to become more involved in the Democratic process.

  2. Hey, thanks for posting! It felt overwhelming when I first tried to write about this, but I wanted to make it simpler for other people who are just learning about it.

  3. A lot to learn on this post. Thank you for taking the time to write this down. WIll re-read it in depth later, but for now just want to say I appreciate your passion for your cause.

  4. Labeling is fine, but the world would already starve without GMOs. My daughter is a scientist, I've been to her lab at Stanford, and I believe our worst diseases and world problems are going to be solved by the amazing human ingenuity that is unlocking the potential that is within each person and plant's genetic code. We cannot turn back the hands of time, nor should we want to. I worry that issues like this are misinterpreted by people who don't take the time to really be informed, and then have knee-jerk panic responses. In that spirit, I'm in support of labeling- information is power. I'm also in favor of responsible science and GMOs.

  5. @ Toby, I'm not against genetics or science, but think that people have a right to know what's in their food. I don't want to turn back time either. No one wants anyone to starve. Dr. Lorrin Pang is one of the most amazing, educated speakers on GMO issues, and lives here on Maui. If you read his bio, it's pretty astounding, and he is retired from his internationally acclaimed scientific career to serve as Maui's public health officer. I agree with him, in that it's one thing in a lab, but another thing out in the open. Thx for your input!


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