Last week, Mayor Bernard Carvalho of Kauai vetoed a recently passed bill that would require biotech companies to disclose pesticide use information, and establish buffer zones between their fields and public spaces including schools, parks and hospitals. The decision was met with frustration by the legislation's supporters, who see the move as a betrayal, but overall a "minor obstacle in the bigger picture of a growing movement for a healthier, safer, more democratic Kauai."
FIC has been following this legislation closely and is likewise disappointed that a serious effort to enhance transparency and oversight in Kauai was blocked.
Kauai Council Member Gary Hooser, who co-introduced the bill and helped pass it in a 6-to-1 vote in October, stated:
"The medical community, impacted residents, environmentalists, cultural practitioners, farmers, teachers and labor unions came together to work on this Bill, the first common-sense step to addressing concerns over pesticide use on the island. Though the Council was apprised of every single issue that the Mayor seems to take concern with, they still decided in a 6-1 vote to move forward as an overwhelming majority," said Council Member Gary Hooser, who co-introduced the bill. "With aloha [compassion] comes kuleana [personal responsibility], and we will continue with our work to protect our people’s health and safety.”
The bill's aim is to address the increase in pesticide concerns since Hawaii became a major center for genetically engineered (GE) seed production in the last two decades. The state's three growing seasons instead of one attracted major companies (including Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow, BASF and Monsanto) but has resulted in increased spraying of pesticides throughout the year. Residents of Kauai – where the first four of those companies utilize 12,000 acres for seed growing – want to be informed about what the companies are growing and what type and quantity of pesticides they're using. In addition to the reporting requirement and buffer zones, the bill also calls for a health and environmental impact study relating to pesticide use.
Bill supporters say they'll now focus on ensuring an override of the mayor's veto and continuing efforts to protect the health of the island and its people.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.