State Preemption of Local GMO Regulation: An Analysis of Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. County of Kauai
The Federalism debate has been an enduring feature of American political dialogue for centuries.1 Although implicating many of the same concerns, the parallel discussion on the role of local governments within states has received comparatively little attention. In recent years, however, with the emergence of new technologies in several key American industries, — the practice of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) by natural gas companies and the development of genetically modified organisms2 (“GMOs”) by agricultural corporations, for instance — the debate over the relationship between state and local governments has been thrust into the limelight.3 Invigorated by concerned constituencies and faced with inaction on the federal and state level, many local governments have sought to regulate the perceived dangers of GMOs.4 In the ensuing lawsuits, courts must consider difficult questions: To what extent do local governments have authority independent from the state to act? What is the proper relationship between state laws and local ordinances? At what point do they conflict, and what happens when they do? To resolve these issues courts must turn to the state preemption5 doctrine.