As the author of Bill 2491 relating to Pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms, I feel compelled to address the tremendous amount of misinformation being generated in the community as to its impacts and effects on our island community.
To be clear – Bill 2491 does not ban GMOs and will absolutely not force or cause the closure of any GMO operation on Kauai.
Further – Bill 2491’s pesticide provisions apply only to commercial agricultural operations that use large amounts of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs). Ninety-nine percent of these very toxic substances are used by just five companies on Kauai. The GMO companies apply approximately 18 tons of over 22 different types of highly restricted chemicals every year to their fields all over our island. These chemicals have warning labels that sometimes exceed 100 pages and many are banned in Europe and elsewhere in the world.
No one else on Kauai uses these RUP chemicals at any level even close to what is being used by these agrochemical operations. The GMO companies use 18 tons per year. All golf courses combined on Kauai use annually about 200 pounds of RUP’s total. While the state and county do utilize “general use pesticides” such as Round Up, they do not use RUPs at all in their roadside spraying.
No small farms will be impacted by Bill 2491 whatsoever because they simply do not use RUPs at any significant level at all.
These same GMO companies are conducting experiments with pesticides and genetically modified organisms not approved for human consumption, nor approved for release into the open general environment. While these companies often deny this fact, I have clear and unequivocal documentation to prove this assertion.
Year after year, these large agro chemical corporations dump over 18 tons of 22 different types of Restricted Use Pesticides and an additional estimated 80 tons of General Use Pesticides (glyphosate, Round Up and other) into the Kauai environment. These toxic chemicals are often applied in fields near schools, hospitals, houses, streams and sensitive coastal environments.
There have been no studies, no research and no evaluation of what impacts this activity has on our community’s health and natural environment. There is no law in place at the present time that requires these companies to disclose the large amounts of toxic chemicals they use daily in our community. Nor is there any law in place today that prevents these same chemicals from being in areas adjacent to schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas.
The heart of Bill 2491 is the “right to know.” Kauai’s people have the right to know what pesticides are being used in very large quantities and what experimental pesticides and experimental genetically modified organisms are being used in our County.
If passed into law Bill 2491 will:
1) Require mandatory disclosure of Pesticide and GMO use by large commercial agricultural entities and require a buffer zoned around schools, hospitals and other sensitive areas. This applies only to large users of Restricted Use Pesticides and will not affect small farmers at all.
2) Prohibit open air testing of experimental pesticides and experimental GMOs. Note: This does not ban the testing but merely requires that it be conducted in an enclosed environment.
3) Establish a temporary moratorium on new GMO operations pending the results of an environmental impact statement and development of a permitting system. Note: This does not impact existing operations but only impacts expansion during the limited moratorium period.
4) Require the County of Kauai to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the impact of the GMO industry and its related pesticide practices within Kauai County. This will include independent testing of soil, water, air and volunteer residents.
5) Require a permitting system for GMO operations and establishes penalties.
6) Provides that all costs may be paid for via permitting fees assessed on those companies being regulated and via property tax directly connected to their operations.
Bill 2491 has been reviewed by numerous legal experts and has undergone many revisions during the drafting process. The County of Kauai has the legal authority to pass and implement the provisions contained within this measure. Nothing in federal or state law prevents us from taking this action and in fact both existing law and past court decisions support our right to protect the health and natural environment of our county.
Without question our community is growing increasingly concerned about the impact of the GMO operations and their related pesticide use on our island. This is a Kauai issue concerning activities and impacts that are occurring on Kauai.
Growing and experimenting with genetically modified organisms, using experimental pesticides and spraying a wide array of restricted and non restricted pesticides on a mass scale have impacts on our island, our health and our environment. There are direct impacts, secondary impacts and cumulative impacts but we don’t know what those impacts are because they have never been properly evaluated — and the companies in question will not give us the information needed to make a proper evaluation.
As an elected member of the Kauai County Council I am committed to working with my colleagues on the Council whom I know share my concerns, to pass into law an ordinance that will in fact further protect the health and safety of Kauai residents.
Please participate in the process and send your testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org and please take the time to attend the public hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on July 31 at Kauai Community College.
• Gary Hooser is a member of the Kauai County Council