Voluntary pesticide disclosure takes effect on Kauai; Kenoi signs ban on new GMO crops


Voluntary pesticide disclosure takes effect on Kauai

The state’s Good Neighbor Program calls for buffer zones around certain properties

By Rosemarie Bernardo

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 06, 2013

Large agribusinesses on Kauai have started following a state Department of Agriculture voluntary program to disclose pesticide use and establish buffer zones for spraying.

Companies are setting up meetings with officials of neighboring schools, medical facilities and residential properties to address concerns about pesticide use under the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program, which took effect Sunday.

Five companies covered by the voluntary program — Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF, Dow AgroSciences and Kauai Coffee, the largest coffee grower in the state — also are establishing buffer zones along certain neighboring properties.

Company representatives say the voluntary program established by the Department of Agriculture’s Pesticides Branch is a practical way to address concerns, but supporters of a Kauai ordinance, Bill 2491, which regulates pesticide use and farming of genetically modified food, say the state program doesn’t go far enough.

They say the program is weak because it is voluntary, while the new law imposes disclosure, buffer zones and penalties for violators. An example of the difference is the size of buffer zones near schools, medical facilities and residential properties. The program sets a minimum 100-foot buffer zone compared with a 500-foot zone under the ordinance.

On Dec. 18, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. is due to pre­sent a timeline for implementing the ordinance.

Kauai Councilman Gary Hoo­ser, who co-introduced Bill 2491, criticized the state program’s minimum 100-foot buffer zones. “It’s woefully inadequate,” he said. “Even 500 feet in the bill needs to be greater, but 100 feet is totally unacceptable. Our laws are not voluntary.”

Under the state program’s guidelines, companies also may submit monthly reports to the Pesticides Branch to disclose the type and amount of restricted-use pesticides sprayed on their fields. They may also include the total number of acres sprayed and the products’ registration numbers with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The first monthly report is due Jan. 15.

Under the ordinance, companies are mandated to submit weekly disclosure reports of both restricted-use and general-use pesticides. Companies also are required to provide information on the date, amount, EPA registration number, total acreage, wind speed and direction and other detailed information at the time of pesticide application.

Fern Rosenstiel of Ohana o Kauai said residents likely will not get the information they need through the program to protect the community from pesticide exposure.

As of Wednesday, Pesticides Branch Chief Thomas K. Matsuda said BASF has informed the state of its plan to adhere to the program’s guidelines.

Alicia Maluafiti, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents biotech companies, maintains that the four biotech companies on Kauai support the program. “They embraced it 100 percent,” she said.

Syngenta said it already exceeds the buffer zone guidelines. For years the zones near schools, residences and medical facilities have extended 500 feet or more from their property, spokes­man Mark Phillipson said in a news release.

DuPont Pioneer spokes­woman Laurie Yoshida said company officials plan to meet with officials at Kekaha Elementary School as well as two charter schools in Kekaha. Though its overall intent is to follow the program’s guidelines, the company contends the buffer zones are arbitrary as its use of pesticides and growth of genetically modified organisms are regulated by federal agencies.

BASF has met with Wai­mea High School and plans to meet with public and charter schools in Kekaha. Company representatives will also soon meet with Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital officials to inform them of pesticide use practices.

Kirby Kester, BASF applied genetics manager, praised the state: “We appreciate the state’s leadership and work in offering fair, balanced and legally sound solutions at a time when division and the spread of misinformation have plagued Kauai.”

Supporters say Bill 2491 was introduced because of the state’s failure to address concerns about pesticide exposure affecting isle residents and the environment.

In mid-November the County Council overrode the mayor’s veto of Bill 2491. Carvalho had cited legal concerns that state and federal regulations pre-empt the county’s authority to enact laws to regulate pesticides and genetically modified organisms.

Kenoi signs ban on new GMO crops

By Timothy Hurley

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 06, 2013

Hawaii County will become the second in the state to restrict genetically modified crops. The Kauai County Council voted Nov. 16 to override a veto of a bill requiring large farms to establish buffer zones and disclose use of restricted-use pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Vowing to protect natural resources and shut out the “global agribusiness corporations” from Hawaii island, Mayor Billy Kenoi on Thursday signed a bill designed to limit planting of new genetically modified crops.

But foes of the bill warned it would not only put the brakes on tens of millions of dollars worth of current GMO-related projects, but stop investment and growth of the island’s agriculture industry.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Lorie Farrell of Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United, a group that represents a dozen major agricultural organizations. “The impacts are going to be severe.”

The bill the County Council approved 6-3 on Nov. 19 restricts planting of genetically modified crops to enclosed structures like greenhouses.

Farmers who already grow GMO crops are exempt from the ban. That includes Big Island Dairy and the island’s numerous papaya growers, who largely rely on modified varieties that are resistant to the ring­spot virus.

“Our community has a deep connection and respect for our land, and we all understand we must protect our island and preserve our precious natural resources,” Kenoi said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “With this new ordinance we are conveying that instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.”

Hawaii County will become the second in the state to restrict genetically modified crops. The Kauai County Council voted Nov. 16 to override a veto of a bill requiring large farms to establish buffer zones and disclose use of restricted-use pesticides and genetically modified crops.

The vote represents another significant victory for the Hawaii anti-GMO movement, which has disputed the safety of genetically altered crops and use of herbicide-resistant crops, and sought to prevent the controversial biotech seed industry from gaining a foothold in Hawaii County.

In 2008, Hawaii County adopted a more limited genetically modified organism bill that banned genetically modified coffee and taro.

On Thursday, Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille described the bill she introduced as a landmark measure aimed at protecting non-GMO farmers afraid of cross-pollination between modified and nonmodified crops.

“The bill is modest,” she said. “It holds the status quo. It allows farmers to continue to do what they are doing. It just doesn’t allow more.”

Wille said the ban on future GMO crops will prevent the Big Island from becoming another Kauai, where four international biotechnology companies have established outposts on former sugar land and are conducting open-air experiments and developing new genetically modify crops.

“All I’m saying is there’s science on both sides,” she said. “Let’s halt and take a closer look.”

In approving the bill, Kenoi said his administration would launch a yearlong effort to research and collect data on the agriculture industry to shed further light on the GMO issue and its effect on the environment.

“We will work with our farmers and our ranchers to carefully monitor the impacts of this bill … to separate speculation and guesswork from the facts,” he said.

However, Farrell said the bill is almost entirely based on emotion, myths and a lack of scientific facts.

She said it could prevent orchid and antherium farmers from proceeding with a GMO project designed to fight a disease afflicting the ornamental flowers industry. It may also stop expansion of the livestock industry, which is working on a $3.5 million GMO program to ensure feed sources. Also in jeopardy, she said, is a green-leaf lettuce GMO project in the works with the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The ultimate effect may be determined by how the county implements the law, Farrell said.

In any case, she said, the greatest impact could be to hinder investment by current farmers and potential new ones, giving a competitive advantage to agricultural concerns elsewhere.

Laurie Yoshida, communications manager with DuPont Pioneer, said she knows of no plans by a biotechnology company to expand to Hawaii island.

Yoshida said the biggest problem with the law is that it’s going to handicap what Hawaii island farmers can do to fight threats to their crops.

“It’s just disappointing that the farmers there are not going to have the access to the technology available to them,” she said.

The vote followed six months of debate through many long public hearings and testimony from hundreds, most of whom spoke out against GMO farming.

Two other farming groups supported the bill: Hawaii Farmers Union United, whose focus is on family farms, and the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.