Blue shirts take over council chambers

LIHUE — More than 20 people wearing blue shirts attended a Kauai County Council meeting Tuesday afternoon to show opposition to Bill 2491, which would affect companies that grow genetically modified organisms.

Nobody wearing a “Pass the Bill” red shirt showed up.

“I wear this blue shirt today because I’m proud,” said Tyleen Medeiros as she cried. “I’m proud to work for the seed industry.”

Prior to a closed-door meeting with County Attorney Al Castillo to discuss legal issues in the bill, the council took testimony from five people, who spoke against the proposal.

The bill, in its current form, would establish a comprehensive disclosure of pesticide use and GMO crops and create buffer zones around schools and bodies of water.

Medeiros said those who attack the seed companies act like their workers have no morals and don’t care about the people of Kauai.

“I have four kids,” Medeiros said as she cried. “I would never put them in danger, or anybody else’s kids.”

She said Councilman Gary Hooser, the bill’s co-introducer, wrote in his blog about a life lesson he learned in high school about bullying. She said Hooser wrote in the blog post that people should try to befriend or ignore those who bully them, but “if they push you, you push them back” and soon they’ll stop pushing.

“In my book, bullies push first,” Medeiros said. “So you had pushed us first, that’s why we’re here. We’re not here because we like be here — the company has never paid us for come here and talk in front of you guys.”

Brian Watson, a “scientist from Waimea,” said he studied science his entire life and grew up making explosions in his basement.

“What this bill has done makes me sick,” he said “This is supposed to be the land of aloha, not the land of ‘go poison your own land.’”

When Watson found out about the seed companies on Kauai, he thought, “Wow, that is my dream,” he said. After overcoming adversities and graduating from college, Watson said he became a “scientist in this paradise.”  

“Now that I’m finally living out one of my dreams, you want to talk about pack up and go home? I don’t think so. I’m a scientist, I’m a professional scientist,” said Watson.

Jill Suga said those in support of the bill believe there are health issues that have not been addressed, while those opposed to it believe they are part of the community and are being targeted.

Suga said farming is a “tough job,” which she did for many years in her backyard with the help of her grandfather.

“It’s hard to support a bill that is targeting my friends and family,” said Suga said as she cried.

Seed company worker Roberta Puakea said she came from the Big Island, where the papaya industry would have disappeared if it weren’t for the GMO papayas.

Puakea said she works in an office but has volunteered to work in the fields.

Had she not been hired to work for the seed companies four-and-a-half years ago,  Puakea said she, too, might have been “intimidated and afraid, and probably going in the wrong direction.”

“I hope you take the time to look at all the facts and not be led by fear,” Puakea said. “We must work together to make this diverse field of bio-tech an experience we can be proud of.”

Eleele resident Mark Willman said the bill would have adverse effects on the entire community, and criticized the contrast between blue and red shirts.

“As you look out the window, and you see reds and blues, to me that’s a type of separation of the island,” said Willman. When mixed together, Willman added that those two colors create purple, the official color of Kauai.

“That’s what this bill has done, it has divided us,” he said.

“I encourage you to stop this bill.”

On Aug. 5, the council’s Economic Development Committee heard the bill for the first time and deferred it to Sept. 9.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com

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