(Beyond Pesticides, October 1, 2013) Kauai’s Committee on Environmental Development, Agriculture, and Sustainability approved a bill that requires large agricultural companies in the county to disclose the pesticides they use. The legislation will now go to the full council for a vote. The measure, County Bill 2491, which Beyond Pesticides supported with testimony, would provide transparency and restrict the operations of DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, BASF and Kauai Coffee, on the island.
In a 4-1 vote, the majority of Kauai’s council members demonstrated support for the need to improve pesticide regulations to protect the community health and the local ecosystem. The bill, introduced by Kauai County Councilmen Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum, provides long overdue protections from chemical exposure occurring on the island, requiring a 500-foot buffer zone near schools, hospitals, residential areas, public roadways and sensitive ecological sites, such as streams, rivers and shorelines. Under the bill’s language, (i) the testing of experimental pesticides are restricted only to greenhouses and other contained structures, (ii) all pesticide applications and GE crops are to be subject to mandatory disclosure to the county, and (iii) the use of any pesticides by these corporations will require prior notification through the public posting of signs. (See previous Daily News coverage here.)
As the industry exerts pressure to quash the legislation, thousands of people have marched and rallied to support the bill. But the Council’s decision was determined by more than just public support. “We’ve had lots of passionate testimony as well as a lot of expert testimony,” said Mr. Hooser. “We’ve had doctors that serve in hospitals, pediatricians, obstetricians, oncologists, testify about their serious concerns about the impacts of this industry.”
In concluding remarks to the Council committee, however, Mr. Hooser pledged to make the bill “stronger and better” when it returns to the full Council discussion and vote. Indeed, the bill has had some provisions appreciably strengthened. For example, the original language required industrial agriculture companies to simply submit an annual report detailing what pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other chemicals they used. “The new amendment requires weekly reports, requires a lot more detail in terms of locations and quantities, which way the wind’s blowing, so people know whether those chemicals are likely to go into their neighborhoods,” said Mr. Hooser.
Though many of the bill’s core provisions remain intact in the bill, major weakening amendments to the bill were adopted in committee. “There was an important provision requiring a moratorium on the future growth of the industry. That was taken out. There was a prohibition on open-air testing. That was taken out,” said Mr. Hooser. Also eliminated from the bill were restrictions on the permitting of commercial GE crops.
Additionally, the bill’s adoption was undercut by a proposal by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to create a voluntary (as opposed to a mandatory) program of company safeguards for human health and safety from pesticide use. Bill supporters say the Governor’s proposal falls short of securing protection for the people of Kauai.
Mr. Hooser told The Garden Island that he will encourage Mr. Abercrombie to meet with doctors of Kauai’s Veterans Memorial Hospital, local pediatricians, and the plaintiffs who have sued DuPont Pioneer for toxic trespass that forces residents to live with the threat of pesticide-related health effects. “Delaying putting into place measures for the health and environment of our community is not an acceptable solution,” Mr. Hooser said. “We need to put those in place now.”
For more information on the failed promises of GE agriculture, read “Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market,” or see Beyond Pesticides website on Genetic Engineering. If you want to get involved, check out the organizations Hawaii Seed or the website Stop Poisoning Paradise.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides