(Beyond Pesticides, December 11, 2013) Following the counties of Kaua’i and Hawaii, Maui Council Member Elle Cochran has introduced legislation (full text available here) that will require disclosure of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. In addition, the bill requires buffer zones and a health impact study.
The Council Member feels it is important to make permanent a voluntary agreement reached between the Mayor of Maui and Monsanto, according the Associated Press. Monsanto, which has written on similar legislation in the other Hawaii counties, maintains that, “Monsanto is committed to being a good neighbor and responsible business. We have very strict policies and practices in place to ensure we meet all state and federal laws, operate in a responsible and safe manner.” The Maui Farm Bureau has said that these technologies are necessary to grow food for a growing population.
Kauai made history in Hawaii and worldwide in November when it enacted a law to force public disclosure of large scale production of experimental genetically engineered organisms and pesticide use. Using the authority vested in local political subdivisions by the state’s constitution, the law seeks to “to establish provisions to inform the public, and protect the public from any direct, indirect, or cumulative negative impacts on the health and the natural environment of the people and place of the County of Kaua”˜i, by governing the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms.” The Council, with an outpouring of community support, voted 5-2 to override the Mayor’s veto of Bill 2491, introduced by Council Member Gary Hooser. The bill was originally passed by the Council on October 16, 2013 by a 6-1 vote. For more details on the legislation, see GE Restrictions Become Law, Kauai Council Overrides Mayor’s Veto.
On December 5, 2013, Mayor Billy Kenoi signed into law a bill Bill 113, which was introduced by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, that bans new open growing of GMOs in Hawaii County, the Big Island. The measure passed the Council on November 19. In a letter sent with the signing of the bill, Mayor Kenoi said, according to bigislandnow.com, “Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources. . .We are determined to do what is right for the land because this place is unlike any other in the world. . . “With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.”
Council Member Brenda Ford had introduced legislation to ban all transgenic crops on the Big Island. It failed in committee. The bill that ultimately passed contains an emergency exemption for insects and diseases that threaten a crop. The exception requires a Council vote after a determination that there are no viable alternatives. Much of the papaya grown on the island is genetically modified to resist the ringspot virus. However, Kaua’i is home to a larger number of genetically engineered crops than the Big Island.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.