LIHUE — One month ago, the Kauai County Council unanimously voted to send County Bill 2491, co-introduced by council members Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum, to a public hearing.
The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. today at the Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue.
Hooser said the number of emails he has received is “overwhelming,” and that he is expecting upwards of 2,000 people at today’s event. The venue holds between 500 and 600.
Hooser described what has happened over the last month on Kauai as a “celebration of grassroots democracy.”
“The community on all sides of the issue is totally engaged in this, and how many issues do you have that?” he said. “It is definitely something important we are addressing. We can feel that.”
No decision will be made this afternoon on the bill, which would allow the county to govern the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms on the island. Rather, the meeting is solely for council members to hear testimony from both sides of the issue.
Due to limited parking at KVC, the county has set up a free shuttle service from Vidinha Stadium to the venue, starting at noon and lasting until midnight.
The bill would require commercial agricultural entities to disclose the use of pesticides and the presence of genetically modified crops to the county. It specifically targets companies that purchase or use more than five pounds (or 15 gallons) of restricted use pesticides annually.
Those companies include BASF, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and Kauai Coffee.
As the bill’s drafter, Hooser said it is written in a way that protects public health and the environment, while allowing the companies to continue operating here.
“I cannot imagine one of these companies leaving Kauai because they have to disclose their pesticide use,” he said. “It’s just disappointing that this misplaced fear is being spread.”
In addition to disclosure, the bill calls for 500-foot pesticide-free buffer zones around sensitive areas, including schools, hospitals and streams; a temporary moratorium on the experimental use and commercial production of GMOs, until the county has completed an Environmental Impact Statement on the industry’s health and environmental effects; a ban on open-air testing of experimental pesticides and GM crops; and penalties for any firm or corporation that violates the bill’s provisions.
The Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.