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Daily News Blog

14
Mar

Report Calls for Improved Pesticide Regulation and Assessment on Kauai, Hawai’i

(Beyond Pesticides, March 14, 2016)  According to a draft version of a report commissioned by Hawaii and Kauai County, Hawaii should dramatically improve its regulation of pesticide use and study its impacts, which the state legislature has repeatedly refused to consider. Unsurprisingly, agrichemical companies that produce genetically engineered (GE) seeds criticized the new government report, saying it “raises unfounded and unsubstantiated fears about chronic exposure and chemicals in general.” Association members include Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and BASF, multi-billion-dollar multinational agrochemical companies that farm thousands of acres in Hawaii and produce the state’s largest export crop, seed corn.

Tkauaicornfieldshe Joint Fact Finding (JFF) report was conducted by Peter Adler of the consulting firm Accord3.0. and eight participants, including two representatives of DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences. According to the study website, it was commissioned by the  Hawaii State Department of
Agriculture (HDOA)  and Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho in order to conduct a joint fact finding project on the island of Kauai. The preliminary results were released after a year-long investigation into the impacts and regulation of pesticide use by Hawaii’s GE seed industry and Kauai Coffee.  The draft report is available for public comment until April 8, 2016.

The draft report’s recommendations include:

  • The state should establish new standards of pesticide safety that consider Hawaii’s unique environment and take into account the impacts of chronic exposure.
  • The Department of Agriculture should implement a pilot program to monitor pesticide drift and improve current protocols for responding to incidents of pesticide exposure.
  • The department should also add a user fee to pesticide sales to fund pesticide monitoring initiatives; add more pesticide inspectors to tackle the agency’s backlog; require that field workers undergo mandatory medical checks for pesticide toxicity; and create an annual monitoring program for bees and honey.
  • The Department of Health should implement continuous water monitoring and air, soil and dust sampling programs. The agency should also complete all missing years of data on cancer and birth defects, and start including zip codes in its data collection.
  • The Department of Education should pursue an air monitoring program at Kauai schools and offer voluntary blood and urine tests.
  • The Department of Land and Natural Resources should start a pilot program to test for pesticides in wildlife and test surface waters in wetland habitats and bird sanctuaries.
  • The Office of Hawaiian Affairs should annually monitor the presence of pesticides in salts collected by Native Hawaiian practitioners.

In 2013, local leaders crafted Bill 2491 (which became Ordinance 960) in response to public outcry from residents, many of whom live, work, or have children that go to school near agricultural fields leased by chemical corporations. Many in the community had hoped that the passage of Ordinance 960 would be the beginning of local efforts to reign in excesses and abuses of agrochemical companies operating on the island. In late October of that year, the Kauai County Council approved the bill in a 6 to 1 vote. However, a lawsuit challenging the ordinance was brought against Kauai by agrochemical giants, DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Syngenta Seeds, Agrigenetics, Inc, (owned by Dow Chemical) and BASF Plant Sciences LP, who argued that the County had no authority to regulate pesticides and GE plantings because state and federal laws did so already, and that the ordinance places unnecessary and unfair restrictions on their operations. Unfortunately, in late 2014, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled that Kauai County Ordinance 960 is preempted by state law and therefore is unenforceable.

State preemption laws effectively deny local residents and decision makers their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient. Given this restriction, local jurisdictions nationwide have passed ordinances that restrict pesticide use on a town’s public property, or school districts have limited pesticides on its land. As pesticide pollution and concerns over the effects of GE crops on human and environmental health mount, many are fighting to overturn preemption laws and return the power back to localities, enabling them to adopt more stringent protective standards throughout their communities.

The JFF report urges Governor David Ige to take the lead in reforming pesticide regulations, but in a statement to Civil Beat, he said that he does not think his department will move forward with imposing most of the draft report’s recommendations, citing that the study did not substantiate the claims of Bill 2491. The study found no statistically significant evidence that pesticide use by large agricultural companies has harmed Kauai’s environment or the health of residents, but says serious data gaps hindered the analysis. While the current draft analysis may not have found evidence substantiating Bill 2491’s claims, other data easily fills in the gaps and demonstrates resident’s cause for concern.

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 agrochemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released in 2014 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 tolerate  herbicides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands who  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 common sense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. If you too support these issues, please consider joining us in person to help us continue the fight against pesticide use. This spring Beyond Pesticides is convening, with local and regional partner organizations, the  34th National Pesticide Forum from April 15-16 in Portland, Maine. Early bird registration is currently in effect, 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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