Pesticide bill moves ahead

HONOLULU — A bill that would require large, outdoor commercial agricultural businesses to disclose outdoor application of pesticides passed the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Lee, passed the measure unanimously on Thursday and Bill 2754 now heads to the Agriculture Committee, chaired by Rep. Clift Tsuji, who killed a similar bill in committee last year.

That bill introduced by Lee would have imposed buffer zones for pesticides.

Proponents of stricter pesticide controls are happy to see this bill moving through the Legislature this time.

“I’m very pleased that the Health Committee shares our community concerns about the heavy use of pesticides by industrial agriculture and they’ve chosen to pass this bill out of committee, requiring full disclosure,” said Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser.

The Energy and Environmental Protection Committee received hundreds of written testimonies on the bill from parents and health professionals before making their decision, according to Under My Umbrella, a Hawaii-based marketing and communications company.

The release said the bill builds on the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program, which was established to allow companies that purchase large volumes of restricted-use pesticides on Kauai to voluntarily disclose pesticide use.

The bill would make the reporting guidelines for the voluntary Kauai program mandatory across the state and would also establish “disclosure and public notification requirements for outdoor applications of pesticides in and in the proximity of schools, healthcare facilities, child care facilities, elder care facilities and other environmentally sensitive areas,” according to the bill.

Beth Tokioka, spokeswoman for Syngenta, said the company doesn’t support HB 2754.

“We recognize that there are public concerns about pesticide use, and we must be responsive to those concerns. For the past two years, we have been providing disclosure of pesticide use through voluntary participation in the State Department of Agriculture’s Good Neighbor Program,” Tokioka said.

She explained the company provides pre-notification of pesticide applications to schools, hospitals and residences near their operations, and submits monthly reporting of restricted use pesticide use to the state.

“In addition, we have been working with the Department of Agriculture for the past several months to extend the voluntary Good Neighbor Program on a statewide basis,” Tokioka said.

Tokioka said Syngenta is in alignment with a statement submitted Thursday to the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.

“We believe that HB2574 indiscriminately targets large commercial agricultural operations despite the fact that agriculture only accounts for 25 percent of RUP (Restricted Use Products) use in Hawaii,” the letter stated. “It ignores recent studies conducted by the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture which underscore that pesticide use in agriculture has not been linked to incidences related to school evacuations or surface water contamination.”


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