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Report: Pesticide use on Kauai is extensive

LIHUE — A recent analysis of government pesticide databases and data from the state Department of Agriculture’s Kauai Good Neighbor Program shows that the agrochemical industry is applying pesticides at higher rates on Kauai than most U.S. farms, the Portland, Ore.-based Cascadia Times reported Monday.

The reports have “further revealed the exceptional volume of highly toxic pesticides being used by DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow (AgroSciences) and BASF on Kauai, often adjacent to communities and sensitive environmental areas,” the Coalition to Enforce 960 wrote in a release.

The industry, however, says the analysis “contains a plethora of inaccurate statements and false ‘facts.’”

The article, “The Kauai Cocktail,” was written by Cascadia Times editor Paul Koberstein, winner of the John B. Oakes Award in 2004 for distinguished environmental journalism for articles on the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

“His discovery that Kauai has the highest in the nation per-acre use of highly toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos is alarming,” Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser said. “It is no wonder these companies are suing to prevent us from knowing the true extent of their chemical use in our community.”

The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, a trade group representing the agricultural seed industry in Hawaii, issued a statement to The Garden Island Wednesday, saying Koberstein’s conclusion about higher pesticide use rates on Kauai is inaccurate.

“The (HCIA) is disturbed by the author’s lack of understanding of agriculture and farming practices in general, lack of understanding of pesticide use and regulations at federal and state levels and, more importantly, a complete disregard for scientifically-sound interpretation, statistical analysis and presentation of the data,” the association wrote.

Kauai’s most heavily used restricted-use pesticides are atrazine, permethrin, chlorpyrifos, paraquat, methomyl, metolachlor and alachlor, all of which have been “linked to a variety of serious health problems ranging from childhood cognitive disorders to cancer,” according to the Cascadia Times article.

Per-acre usage of chlorpyrifos and permethrin by the industry on Kauai was top in the nation by a significant amount, and calculated to be more than 10 times the national average, according to the publication. The analysis also projected that Kauai ranks second nationally for methomyl, fifth for metolachlor, sixth for alachlor, ninth for paraquat and 23rd for atrazine.

The report also points to possible violations of federal law by the industry, including illegal drift and the application of Lorsban (chlorpyrifos) on days with winds blowing over 10 mph, which is strictly prohibited.

HCIA said the report’s conclusion that various pesticides used on Kauai are done so at higher pounds per-acre in all but four states was “most unsettling.”

“The author’s graph indicates that pesticide use on Kauai even tops that of California, which is simply not true,” HCIA wrote.

The trade group added that further inaccuracies are exacerbated by the author’s false assumption that pesticides were used by the chemical companies on all 12,000 acres they operate on Kauai, compared with the assumption that pesticides are used on all cropland in the U.S. Additionally, it is inappropriate to assess annual pesticide data as reported through the Good Neighbor Program since it is only reflective of pesticide use from the end of 2013, HCIA said.

Hooser said in a release that the figures in the report give a renewed urgency to enforce Ordinance 960, as well as a strong hint as to why the chemical companies are suing the county to avoid compliance.

Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491) was passed by the Kauai County Council via a veto override in November and is slated to take effect later this year. It mandates disclosure of pesticide use and the presence of genetically modified crops, establishes buffer zones around sensitive areas and requires the county to complete a health and environmental impact study.

In January, however, Syngenta, Pioneer, BASF and Dow filed a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking implementation of the ordinance. Plaintiffs say it “irrationally” prohibits them from growing any crop, genetically modified or not, within “arbitrarily drawn buffer zones.”

The Cascadia Times analysis comes on the heels of a report by the Center for Media and Democracy on the influence of the industry on Hawaii politics. CMD documents that over $50,000 was spent by the industry lobbying state lawmakers while they were considering the “Hawaii Monsanto Protection Act” and other bills to strip counties of their regulatory rights, the Coalition to Enforce 960 release states. The industry contributed at least over $700,000 to state and county candidates from November 2006 through December 2013.

“We refuse to be casualties in these corporation’s drive to sell more and more pesticides,” Lorilani Keohokalole-Torio said in the release. “While they are establishing global monopolies in chemicals and seeds, locally they are occupying and poisoning our land, people and democracy.”

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