LIHUE — The Office of Economic Development and the state Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that they will jointly fund a process to examine possible health and environmental impacts associated with the use of pesticides applied to genetically modified agricultural products.
The DOA will lead the effort and has allowed the county to facilitate the process through funding and collaboration, said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
“As I have been saying all along, the most effective way to address these important issues is through the State of Hawaii’s existing regulatory structure by involving a wide array of knowledgeable stakeholders and focusing on facts and data that are necessary to make sound decisions,” he said in a release.
The state and the county will each contribute $50,000 toward the project. It is anticipated that the process will start in January, if not sooner, and be completed within a year.
Scott Enright, chair of the State Board of Agriculture, said the department felt it was appropriate to conduct the process on Kauai first because the issues are of such great concern to the local community.
“What we learn on Kauai will help to inform our direction and policy-making throughout the state,” he said in a release.
Carvalho credited Kauai County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and former Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura for developing the framework for the JFF process last year.
“We initiated the process out of a vision for an alternative way to solve difficult community problems,” Yukimura said. “This is a partnership that will be a model for the rest of the state.”
Once a facilitator is selected, the first step in the process will be a set of interviews and discussions aimed at further identifying the questions and selecting nine or more individuals to voluntarily serve in the JFF group. The group will be comprised of knowledgeable local experts with pertinent backgrounds, experience or detailed understandings of agriculture, environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology, biostatistics, medicine or other related disciplines.
“Joint fact-finding is an inclusive and deliberative process that creates a safe environment for collaborative learning and resolving disputes over scientific and technical information,” Enright said. “The process creates a body of knowledge that is technically credible, and leads to good public policy.”