It took the Kauaʻi County Council 19 hours to decide to pass, by a vote of 6–1, a controversial ordinance that would restrict the use of pesticides near sensitive areas by companies developing GMO crops, and require them to disclose the chemicals they use and the engineered crops they are growing.
And while Kauaʻi Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. must approve the ordinance for it to become law, Earthjustice Attorney Paul Achitoff and George Kimbrell, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, sent a letter to the mayor urging him to approve the legislation. The letter states that both lawyers are prepared to intervene on behalf of community groups to defend the bill if any companies challenge the bill in court.
The letter reads:
Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety would like to reiterate our commitment to defend the bill in the event of any legal challenge by the pesticide industry. We are working with interested community groups and individuals on a pro bono basis and are prepared to intervene in the event that the chemical companies challenge the bill in court …
We have worked together on several landmark lawsuits in Hawaiʻi and nationally concerning genetically engineered (GE) crops and pesticides. We are familiar with the state and federal laws directly and indirectly governing such crops and pesticides as well as other environmental laws …
We urge you to allow Bill 2491 to become law. We will be there to defend it.
The bill requires companies that use more than five pounds or 15 gallons of restricted-use pesticides annually to reveal the chemicals they use. The bill also requires a 500-foot buffer zone near medical facilities, schools and homes, among other sensitive locations. The ordinance also requires disclosure of the type and location of any genetically engineered plants they grow.
According to this New York Times article, because its warm weather allows for three corn harvests a year, Hawaiʻi has become popular for breeding new varieties of corn and other genetically modified crops, and for producing seeds that are shipped to the continental U.S. Companies growing engineered corn on Kauaʻi include DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow and BASF. The Times goes on to state that these operations have ignited opposition from critics skeptical of genetically modified crops and residents who say they have been exposed to dust and dangerous pesticides.
Here is video testimony from longtime Kauaʻi resident Randi Li Dickinson who speaks before the council about her frequent exposure to pesticides and her son’s unexplained sickness:
This news story details that Kauaʻi residents lined up the day before the actual vote took place to participate in the discussion.
“All this time, I’ve never seen such passion and such interest from the Kauaʻi community on any issue,” said Councilman Gary Hooser, who helped to author and introduce the bill.
Watch a PBS NewsHour segment on October 20 covering the Kauaʻi ordinance issue.