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GAP Investigates Biotech Industry Influence on Hawaii Government Officials

Food Integrity Campaign | December 20, 2013

(LIHUE) – The Government Accountability Project (GAP) submitted several information requests to Hawaii state and county officials about meetings and communications with large biotech companies during the debate over Kauai’s pesticide and disclosure legislation, Bill 2491.

The bill, now law, requires biotech companies to disclose pesticide use information and establish buffer zones between their fields and schools, hospitals and residential areas. Despite strong public support and a majority vote in favor of the bill by the Kauai County Council, the mayor vetoed the legislation. On the eve of the council’s scheduled vote to override the veto, the State issued announcements regarding a voluntary pesticide disclosure and buffer zone program, which many interpreted as an attempt to derail regulatory action. The bill passed, but these efforts by officials to block the legislation raise questions about their relationship with the industry.

Pursuant to the Hawaii Uniform Information Practices Act, GAP has requested information about meetings and communications between the Governor’s Office, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, and the Kauai County Mayor’s Office and any representatives of Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, BASF, and the biotech trade group “Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.” The requests focus on communications concerning pesticide use and Bill 2491.

Amanda Hitt, GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign Director, stated, “We knew we had to get involved. We filed these requests after being contacted by several Hawaii residents concerned about what seemed to be attempts by the biotech industry to derail local legislative efforts through closed-door strategizing with state and county officials. This is nothing short of a corporate hijacking of the democratic process.”

From 2010-2012, Dow, Syngenta, BASF and Pioneer have collectively applied over 98 percent of the total Restricted Use Pesticides used in the agricultural sector on Kauai. Actions by the Governor’s office and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture during the debate over the pesticide disclosure bill left both bill-supporters and council-members questioning what appeared to be an agenda to block County progress. The administration under Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has come under increasing scrutiny for its ties to the industry, and its disregard for the concerns of residents impacted by biotech operations, as well as the medical and environmental communities.

GAP’s information requests aim to bring transparency to the discussion of pesticide use in Hawaii and unveil any agreements made behind closed doors between multinational corporations and state government officials.

 

Contact: Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign Director
Phone: 202.457.0034 ext. 159
Email: amandah@whistleblower.org

Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

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