Members selected for GMO, pesticide study

LIHUE — Nine individuals have been selected to serve as members of a joint fact-finding group tasked with looking into potential health and environmental impacts from pesticide use on Kauai.

The $100,000 study, funded by the County of Kauai and the state Department of Agriculture and facilitated by Honolulu planner and mediator Peter Adler’s ACCORD 3.0 Network, is expected to last a year.

“The issue of genetically modified (GM) agriculture production has generated many questions and considerable emotion,” Adler wrote. “One of the debates focuses on the possible adverse health and environmental impacts from pesticides used in conjunction with growing GM crops. Sorting out facts — what we know and can say with reasonable confidence, what we don’t know, and what we might reasonably need to know in the future — is challenging, but not impossible.”

Adler said Thursday that a lot of work went into his selection, and he feels the group has both the diversity and experience to get the job done. 

“I think we have a very good group,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in this group.”

The following people have been invited to serve as members and will be “engaging in fact-centered deliberations on possible health and environmental harms from pesticide use on Kauai,” according to a release.

• Adam Asquith holds a Ph.D. in entomology and is the Kauai extension specialist for the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program.

• Lee Evslin holds an MD and is a semi-retired physician. He is board certified in pediatrics.

• Gerardo Rojas Garcia holds a master’s degree in agricultural engineering and is Kauai R&D site leader for Dow AgroSciences.

• Sarah Styan holds a Ph.D. in horticulture and is senior research manager for Global Marker Technologies at the DuPont Pioneer Waimea Research Station.

• Kathleen West-Hurd holds a Ph.D. in planning and specializes in land use, non-profit and environmental economics.

• Douglas Wilmore holds an MD and is a retired surgeon.

• Kawika Winter holds a Ph.D. in botany and is director of the Limahuli Garden and Preserve.

• Louisa Wooton holds degrees and certificates in agriculture, operates an organic farm and 65-head goat dairy, and is an independent organic Inspector.

• Roy Yamakawa holds a master’s of science in horticulture and is the recently retired county administrator for the University of Hawaii‘s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Resumes and disclosure statements will soon be posted to the project website, at http://www.accord3.com/pg1000.cfm.

Twenty-three highly qualified individuals expressed direct interest in being a part of the GM/Pesticide Joint Fact Finding process and many more were contacted on the recommendation of others. Final considerations in the selection had to do with background expertise in agriculture, pesticides, public and clinical health, land use, environmental science, a demonstrated ability to work well in a collaborative deliberation, and a willingness to look at the issues with fresh eyes, according to a release.

The Joint Fact Finding group will also involve informational liaisons. Preliminarily, the following individuals have agreed to assist, and others are expected to be added in the future.

• Carl Berg is a research scientist with extensive background in stream and near-shore marine ecologies.

• Milt Clark is a retired EPA official with extensive experience in pollution and public health matters.

• Malia Nobriga-Olivera is a cultural practitioner and teacher who will help the group understand cultural and local perspectives on food growing and pesticides.

• Gary Ueunten is an environmental health specialist with the Department of Health and will assist with additional information gathering.

While the process must remain flexible, the JFF group will convene for an anticipated set of eight meetings this year with further information gathering taking place between meetings. The initial meeting of the JFF group is being scheduled for early March.

A document prepared by ACCORD 3.0 in December details the scope of the project.

Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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