LIHUE — A statewide ban on chlorpyrifos passed through two Hawaii House committees Thursday, along with measures for stricter restrictions on glyphosate herbicides and public notification requirements for pesticide application.
“We have to put the public health of the community before the bottom line of our corporations,” said Dawn Morais Webster, Oahu small business owner who testified.
Described as a call to public safety leadership by some and by others as overbearing and potentially opening doors to lawsuits, HB 1756, HB 2722, HB 2721 and HB 2303 have now been advanced to the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee.
“What we need to do is have respect for each other, find out the facts, and do what is best for the people of Hawaii,” Rep. Chris Lee said during the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection and the Committee on Agriculture hearing.
He continued: “Farmers want to protect their livelihoods, but families have a right to live free from the harmful effects of pesticides.”
Bennette Misalucha, executive director of Hawaii Crop Improvement Situation, said there isn’t enough evidence to show negative impacts of pesticide use to health and environment, and said the measures up for discussion aren’t necessary.
“Rather than create new arbitrary laws, we advocate that we give Hawaii Department of Agriculture increased funding and capacity to effectively do their roles, including enforcement and pesticide education,” she said.
HB1756 bans the import, use, manufacture, sale and storage of chlorpyrifos in the state of Hawaii, and the committees received 278 written testimonies in support, with 71 individuals testifying in opposition of the bill.
Currently there are 21 pesticide products containing chlorpyrifos licensed within the state. Of those, 12 are directed toward food crops and nine have uses for things like golf courses, trees, turf, ornamental plants, and bait products.
And regardless of what happens with HB1756, further restriction of the insecticide is included in a list of pesticide rules being developed by DOA.
According to the department, most products containing chlorpyrifos are restricted-use-pesticides (RUP), and their proposed rules would recategorize the remaining seven as RUP.
Those rules should be open for public comment in late February, according to DOA officials, and many of them are being modeled after California’s chlorpyrifos rules.
“We’re looking to put this chemical on the state restricted use list,” said Micah-Seth Munekata, legislative coordinator at HDOA. “We’ve been looking into what other states have been doing.”
Honey bees took over the conversation when the committees turned to HB2722, which prohibits the application of neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate herbicides on state land after Dec. 31, 2020, without state permits.
Representatives from the Hawaii Farm Bureau said honey bees are healthy in Hawaii and a ban on glyphosate would only make it more difficult to control invasive species in Hawaii.
“Researchers have found here and elsewhere that the biggest threat for our native bees is lack of suitable habitat; it’s being destroyed,” said Janet Ashmen of the Hawaii Farm Bureau.
Kauai’s Jasmine Joy, a beekeeper and conservationist from the North Shore, said most Hawaii honey contains glyphosphate and the neonicotinoid chemicals cause bees to forget how to get back to the hive.
“Without them, our food system would be bland. I do not believe in these pesticides,” Joy said.
HB2303 increases the Pesticide Use Revolving Fund threshold from $250,000 to $1 million. The bill had no public comment and passed through committee conversation quickly.
The remaining bill, HB 2721, establishes disclosure and public notification requirements for outdoor application of restricted use pesticides and opponents highlighted unrealistic expectations for small farmers within the measure.
“Why is agriculture targeted and not the rest of the pesticide user community,” Ashmen asked. “Will they use (the reported information) to go to the hospital and say ‘this is what we were sprayed with’, or is it to find out what (farmers) are using and (to) sue them?”
Ashmen suggested amping up pesticide use training and education for the public, and an uptick in funding for DOA outreach and enforcement of existing regulations.
The House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce will be the next entity to address these measures, at a date yet to be determined.