LIHUE — Pesticides’ potential impacts on human health require further study, and those furthering that goal are still promoting bills — this time through the 2018 legislative session.
Meanwhile, agribusiness promoters are looking to increase agriculture on the islands, according to the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.
“Our goal is to help Hawaii agriculture succeed in the long term, clear away misconceptions about our industry, and demonstrate how our members continue to be good neighbors and stewards,” said Bennette Misalucha, executive director of HCIA.
She continued: “HCIA is currently reviewing the various measures and will work to support Hawaii’s farmers and the future success of our state’s agricultural industry.”
But that increase has to be done responsibly in the opinion of Kauai people like Fern Holland and Gary Hooser, who are working through the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action to “put into place the regulatory protections that are needed.”
Pesticide-free buffer zones around schools, comprehensive testing of water, soil and air in impacted communities, a fully updated Birth Defect Registry and a statewide ban of the insecticide chlorpyrifos are all targets for HAPA in the upcoming session.
Holland pointed out a need for an industry environmental impact assessment, which brings forward the need for more information and better data, both on reported health impacts and pesticide usage.
“To conduct proper environmental assessments and protect the public, we need mandatory and detailed disclosure of the restricted-use pesticides used by these corporations,” Holland said.
Some of that research was put into a 2016 joint-fact-finding report entitled Pesticide Use by Large Agribusinesses on Kauai, and that is where the call for both the buffer zones and disclosure originated.
At the 2016 release of the JFF Report, JFF committee members said there is a need for more data in order to prove a connection between pesticide usage and human health issues.
“I am cautiously optimistic that the State Legislature will support the Joint Fact Finding recommendations,” Hooser said.
The Legislature is the body with the power to enforce regulations on pesticide usage and reporting after a November 2016 court ruling that stated that’s out of the jurisdiction of county governments in Hawaii.
“I’m hopeful that the 2018 Hawaii Legislature will step up and do the right thing this year,” Hooser said. “The large agrochemical companies on Kauai have a long and public history of causing harm and health to the environment.”
And while some gun for stricter regulations and more rules for big ag on Hawaii, others like Misalucha and HCIA say their goal is to keep the people of the islands fed.
“More than ever, farmers need our support given current challenges in agriculture and the state’s goal to increase food production,” Misalucha said.