Pesticides in Kauai: New Bill Would Protect The Poisoning of Paradise

by Megan Pittsley, Stop Poisoning Paradise

Pesticides on Kauai

The long-revered tropical paradise of Kauai, Hawaii has become ground zero for GMO plant and pesticides testing over the past decade. Now, residents are fighting back.

Over 18 tons of pre-diluted, restricted-use pesticides are dumped on the paradise of Kauai, Hawaii annually by GMO giants Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF and Dow AgroSciences R&D seed operations. Kauai residents are fighting
back with Bill 2491.

This open-air testing of experimental GMO crops requires large volumes of pesticides, including restricted use pesticides (such as Lorsban and Atrazine), which can have disastrous health consequences. Often these chemicals are used in amounts several times higher than any other conventional farming methods, and due to Kauai’s high winds and wet environment, these activities have great risks of contaminating the surrounding land, air, water, crops and residents.

The Effects of Pesticides Abuse on the Kauai Community

Hawai’i has had 5.4 times more GE crop field releases per unit area than Illinois. This means that in general, more people in Hawai’i live in close proximity to field test sites than residents of Midwestern states like Illinois, putting them at a much higher risk for pesticide exposure.

Residents have reported pesticide drift into their homes and being hit by drift while driving public roadways, and healthcare professionals have voiced concerns over possible cancer clusters, widespread irregular respiratory issues, and many other health issues relating to children and pregnant women.

Through Bill 2491, residents are demanding disclosure and preventative measures that protect pregnant mothers, fence-line communities and children from the risks of exposure to restricted use pesticides.

The American Academy of Pediatrics research shows pesticide links to delays in neurological development, endocrine abnormalities, behavioral issues and an increase in childhood cancers such as leukemia. Dr. Eveslin, a Kauai pediatrician for over 30 years says:

A growing number of Kauai’s pediatricians are concerned with the massive pesticide exposure on Kauai. These are important and reasonable measures that are long overdue.

Area residents are, especially small children, exposed to these high levels of pesticides are seeing negative health effects. Malia Chun, a local mother and native Hawaiian describes her family’s situation:

We’re exposed to restricted pesticides through our air, water and  food. My daughters and I have experienced symptoms of asthma, burning in our throat and eyes and unexplained allergies. If this abuse continues, what will be left for the future of our keiki? Why should I leave? I do my best to fulfill my kuleana (responsibilty) as a steward of my ancestral land. No amount of money in this world is worth the health and well being of our ‘ohana and our community.

Over 150 residents are suing Pioneer/DuPont for unlawfully allowing pesticide drift into their homes for over a decade, and there have been several incidences at a local middle school where children and teachers got sick. One incident resulted in at least 10 children being taken to the hospital. Earlier this month, over 3,500 residents marched in support of the bill and thousands more have submitted testimonies to the County Council in support of bill 2491.

Bill 2491: Protect Our Community from Pesticides

Currently County Bill 2491 is under consideration by the County Council which will require buffer zones to protect sensitive areas (schools, hospitals, waterways, public roadways, etc.) and the completion of an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) to investigate the impact these operations have on Kauai. In the meantime, it puts a moratorium on new operations until Kauai has a deeper understanding of the health, economic, and environmental risks of these experimental

In response, the biotech and chemical companies are threatening layoffs and lawsuits if the bill gets passed. However, Bill 2491 has been reviewed by several attorneys and public interest experts specializing in pesticide and GMO regulation who have encouraging words on the Bill’s legal standing, and the County’s powers to protect the health and welfare of its residents and natural resources. Paul Achitoff, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Honolulu office, comments,

I believe the Bill’s key provisions are legally sound and stand an excellent chance of withstanding a legal challenge.

Earthjustice and others are exploring the possibility of defending the Bill pro bono if it is challenged in court. According to the Center for Food Safety, at least seven states have established no-spray buffer zones, eight states have established notification requirements for agricultural pesticide applications, and California counties play a leading role in local pesticide regulation.

There has been documented large-scale failure of state and federal agencies responsible for the regulation, monitoring and protection of people’s health in relation to pesticide use by the agrochemical/GMO operations on the island. Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst for the Center for Food Safety agrees:

We would all like to believe that EPA protects us from pesticide harms. But sadly, this is often not the case.

In fact, only two months ago, Earthjustice took EPA to court for failing to comply with EPA’s legal duty to assess risks to children from drift, restrict pesticide uses accordingly, and create buffer zones around schools to minimize drift exposure.

Pesticides on Kauai: What Residents Can Do

There are a couple of ways that you can get involved to support Bill 2491:

  1. Today – September 27th – the Kauai County Council will be meeting again to discuss amendments to the bill and its possible passing.
  2. Learn more about this issue at Stop Poisoning Paradise and connect with us on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about how to support Bill 2491 to protect Kauai.

Image Credit: Kauai photo via Shtterstock

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