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Daily News Blog

23
Feb

House Panel Rejects Hawai’i Bill to Impose Pesticide Buffer Zones

(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2015) A Hawaii state House agriculture committee rejected a bill Thursday that sought to impose buffer zones for large agricultural companies that spray restricted-use pesticides near schools and other sensitive areas. The proposal, House Bill 1514, introduced by Rep. Chris Lea, stemmed from concerns about  the impact of genetically-engineered (GE) farming and its inherent dependency on increasing  pesticide use. The measure sought  to require companies’  disclosure of the pesticides used and the volume of use.

Hawaii_State_LegislatureThe bill had strong support from the Hawaii chapter of the national nonprofit Center for Food Safety (CFS), as well as a strong backing from neighbor island residents. Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island have all passed laws recently to regulate the seed industry, but a federal  district  court judge  has ruled  that Hawaii counties do not have that power.

Industry has been especially effective in obstructing the bill. CFS’ Hawaii director, Ashley Lukens, said after Thursday’s hearing that she was frustrated by the limited amount of time advocates were given to testify. “It was clear from the very beginning that the hearing was intended to allow the industry to reiterate their talking points,” she said.

Not surprisingly, companies (like Monsanto) that compose Hawaii’s $243 million seed industry argued that the measure was misguided, and several farming organizations opposed it as well. “HB 1514 will take farmland out of production, increase costs, and make it even more difficult to farm in Hawaii,” the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation said in written testimony. The state Department of Agriculture was also critical of the bill and its focus on the seed industry.

While the idea of imposing buffer zones still has a chance in the Senate, it must get past a number of obstacles.

Additionally, three similar measures have passed the Senate committees on health and the environment but are waiting for additional hearings. Senate Bill 801, which pertains to providing notice for pesticide use,  was recently re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Jill Tokuda.  Senate Bill 1037, which requires the health department to establish a mandatory disclosure program for pesticide use,  is also waiting to be heard by Sen. Tokuda. Senate Bill 793, which establishes mandatory notice when pesticides are applied outdoors near sensitive areas,  is awaiting a hearing from Sen. Tokuda and Consumer Protection Committee Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker from Maui.

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released last year reveals that  high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in  2014 alone,  there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California- a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are  subject to incessant  pesticide  spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops.  A May 2014 report  found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of commonsense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. Given the  impending approval of GE crops  designed to withstand applications of the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, these protections are more important than ever.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight against pesticide use. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’  33rd National Pesticide Forum  in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Civil Beat

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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