Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 18, 2013. Kauai made history in Hawaii and worldwide on Saturday when it enacted a law to force public disclosure of large scale production of experimental genetically engineered organisms and pesticide use. Using the authority vested in local political subdivisions by the state’s constitution, the law seeks to “to establish provisions to inform the public, and protect the public from any direct, indirect, or cumulative negative impacts on the health and the natural environment of the people and place of the County of Kaua‘i, by governing the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms.” The Council, with an outpouring of community support, voted 5-2 to override the Mayor’s veto of Bill 2491, introduced by Council Member Gary Hooser. The bill was originally passed by the Council on October 16, 2013 by a 6-1 vote.
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper, a Syngerta attorney said, “There will definitely be a lawsuit.” The newspaper cites Syngeta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and Kauai Coffee, the largest coffee grower in the state, as being affected by the legislation.
In addition to the public disclosure provisions that take effect in nine months, the law requires an Environmental and Public Health Impact Study (EPHIS) “to address key environmental and public health questions related to large-scale commercial agricultural entities utilizing pesticides and genetically modified organisms” to determine the need for possible actions that may be needed in the County “to address any significant effects, public health impacts, or both.” This assessment and recommendation phase could take up to 30 months to complete.
The disclosure provisions, in summary, require the following:
1. Posting of warning signs in the area in which pesticides are to be applied no sooner than twenty-four (24) hours before the scheduled application of any pesticide.
2. Pesticide pre-application notification must be provided to any of the following requesting persons within 1,500 feet from the property line of the commercial agricultural entity where any pesticide is anticipated to be applied: registered beekeeper, property owner, lessee, or person otherwise occupying property within 1,500 feet.
3. A mass notification list shall be established and maintained by each commercial agricultural entity, and shall include access to a legible map showing all field numbers and any key, legend, or other necessary map descriptions.
4. Each commercial agricultural entity shall establish an emergency response hotline to be made available to any licensed physician or nurse practitioner practicing in association with a clinic, medical facility, or emergency center. Treating medical practitioners will be given detailed information on chemicals used.
5. All commercial agricultural entities that intentionally or knowingly possess any genetically modified organism must disclose that information. Detailed reports must be filed that include a general description of each genetically modified organism (e.g., “GMO Corn” or “GMO Soy”), a general description of the geographic location including at minimum the Tax Map Key and ahupua‘a where each genetically modified organism is being grown or developed, and dates that each genetically modified organism was initially introduced to the land in question.
6. Growing of crops and all pesticide use is restricted within required distances within 500 feet of homes, schools, health care facilities and 100 feet of waterways and roadways.
7. Violators of the new law may be assessed fines up to $25,000 a day.
Genetically engineered crops, raising controversy across the country in state legislatures and through referendums, have been contributing to increased pest resistance, leaving farmers to turn to more potent pesticides and biotech companies to develop engineered genes resistant to a wider array of pesticides. Claims of biotech companies that the use of genetically engineered organisms would result in less pesticide dependency on herbicides have not panned out with glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup ReadyTM) corn. Last year, EPA granted an emergency exemption for the unregistered use of the herbicide fluridone on cotton in order to control glyphosate-resistant weeds. Insects are showing resistance to Bt-incorporated plants. EPA and the manufacturers have argued that there would never be insect resistance and yet we are seeing more and more examples of resistance. This is all translating into increased insecticide use of older hazardous chemicals.
Additionally, genetic contamination of crops by pollen as been documented and proves costly to farmers raising organic and non-genetically engineered crops whose loads are rejected by buyers when trace levels of contamination are detected. In August 2011, USDA convened AC21 and charged it with identifying compensation mechanisms to address GE contamination. The underlying assumption of USDA’s work plan for the committee was that as long as farmers are adequately compensated, GE contamination is a permissible and acceptable cost of doing business for organic and non-GE farmers. Beyond Pesticides has rejected this assumption, as did several members of the AC21. True to its charge, the committee’s final report failed to make a single recommendation holding the patent holders of genetic engineering technologies responsible and liable for damages caused by its use.
For more information on Genetic Engineering visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.