Massive march set for Sunday

LIHUE — Kauai residents will take to the streets of Lihue Sunday to march in support of county Bill 2491.

“I expect several thousand people to show up because there are so many people from so many different perspectives who are concerned about this issue,” organizer Andrea Brower wrote in an email Tuesday.

If passed, the controversial bill — co-introduced in June by Kauai County Council Members Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum — would allow the county to govern the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms on the island.

Brower said the march was not organized by any one person or group, but rather “an incredibly diverse coalition of people coming together for the right to know and protect.”

“Mana March,” as it has been coined by its organizers, begins with a pule at 11:30 a.m. at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue. Marchers will walk about one mile, down Hoolako Street, turning right on Rice Street and continue to the Historic County Building. A rally, including music by Makana, John Cruz, Kepa Kruse and Shilo Pa, will follow from 2 to 6 p.m. on the lawn fronting the county building.

The event is expected to be the “largest public march in Kauai history,” and will include local doctors, nurses, farmers, beekeepers, labor unions, parents, teachers, environmentalists, surfers, business owners and concerned community members, according to a release for the event.

In March, despite heavy rain, nearly 2,000 people took to the streets of Poipu in a similar demonstration against GMOs.

Sunday’s event comes one day before the Kauai County Council reconvenes to discuss Bill 2491, which would require Kauai’s five largest agricultural companies — Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, DOW AgroSciences, BASF and Kauai Coffee — to disclose the use of pesticides and the presence of GMO crops on the island.

It would also establish pesticide-free buffer zones around public areas and waterways, ban open-air testing of experimental pesticides and place a temporary moratorium on the commercial production of GMOs, until the county can conduct an environmental impact statement on the industry’s effects.

“Kauai residents are concerned about the impacts of this industry on the island, and through ‘Right to Know’ Bill 2491 are seeking basic information to ensure that the community is protected,” states the release.

Kekaha resident, mother and educator Malia Chun said in the release that the biggest disservice she can give to her children, grandchildren and future generations is to leave them with an aina that can no longer sustain them.

“This bill is so important,” she said. “It is the first step for us to really start to claim our kuleana as keepers of this land.”

On Monday, the Kauai County Council’s Committee on Economic Development and Intergovernmental Affairs will continue its discussion on the bill beginning at 9 a.m. in the Historic County Building. Public testimony will be accepted and amendments to the bill may be voted on.

• Chris D’Angelo, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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