Flood gates open to amendments to GMO bill

LIHUE — Bill 2491 went through the first round of amendments at the Kauai County Council Wednesday.

The bill passed first reading June 28, and has since gone through a lengthy public hearing, one committee meeting and a few executive sessions.

By late afternoon, the council’s Economic Development Committee threw a slew of potential amendments up for discussion.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, by request of Councilman Tim Bynum, an ex-officio committee member, introduced an amendment to clean up language, add clarity and reduce to 48 from 72 hours the period that spraying notice must be given.

As deliberations ensued, Committee Chair Gary Hooser said he suspended the rules in order to allow for a “robust discussion,” which included other potential amendments.

Yukimura proposed to eliminate an entire section that allows the county Public Works Department to develop and implement a permitting process related to commercial agricultural entities that grow genetically modified organisms.

“It’s inconceivable to me,” she said of putting that responsibility on Public Works.

Bynum said Yukimura’s proposal was “way premature.”

“If we’re going to put buffers and other kinds of restrictions, there has to be a process. This anticipates that process,” he said. “If we go down this path and we decide that it’s too complicated, or difficult, then we make previsions.”

Yukimura argued it was premature to have permitting in the bill in the first place. Depending on the results of the environmental study, Yukimura said permitting might not be the solution.

“We don’t know what the solutions are because we haven’t really identified the problem,” she said. “I think we can always come back to the permitting section after we get our data.”

Council members Yukimura and Nadine Nakamura proposed a draft for a separate resolution that would replace the EIS with a Joint Fact-Finding Study. Their alternative would be focused on prioritized health and environmental issues identified by study group participants, and would cost less up-front and take less time, according to their handout.

Unlike the EIS, Nakamura said the alternative study promotes community dialogue.

“It is a community based effort,” Yukimura added. “It sets up the decisions about procedures and threshold levels before any study is done.”

Yukimura also introduced an amendment that would acknowledge the Kauai Invasive Species Committee’s request to be exempt for their experimental pesticide use in open air.  

Hooser said he introduced a similar but “broader” amendment related to the KISC’s request.

With a number of amendments being tossed around at once, Councilman Mel Rapozo said things had gotten “out of control.”

“What this tells me, we have all these amendments and we’re not ready for these amendments,” he said. “Then we should defer.”

The committee then allowed more public testimony, and at 6:30 took a break for dinner. No vote on any of the amendments was taken by press time.

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