The joint fact-finding group was established to evaluate existing studies to determine if pesticide use causes environmental and health effects. The group’s intention was to separate fact from fiction, to differentiate between anecdote and scientific data. The report clearly established there is no evidence of harm to human health or to flora and fauna due to agricultural use of pesticides on Kauai’s westside.
But instead of putting unfounded fear aside and moving forward as a community, the preliminary report as written has clouded these findings.
Everyone on Kauai is entitled to know how pesticide use can affect them. The joint fact-finding report lists many types of information that we should know about pesticides. What it fails to say is that we already have much of that information. Always did.
Certainly, there should be studies on human health risks, including the potential impact on sensitive groups such as children and immune-suppressed individuals, and any endocrine- disruption effects, and impacts from short-term toxicity to long-term effects such as cancer and reproductive system disorders.
There should be studies on the aggregate risks through food, water, and residential use. We should look at the cumulative risks from different pesticides with the same effects. Farmers should also know the occupational risks of applying pesticide products at work. And environmental risks should be evaluated by reviewing data on potential for ground water contamination and risks to endangered and threatened species.
Perhaps most important of all, any of the health and environmental risk assessments should undergo a review by objective scientific experts, and we should review all the scientific data on the pesticide product and develop comprehensive risk assessments that examine the potential effects of the product or ingredient on the human population and environment.
The good news: all of the tests discussed above are already conducted under strict procedures and evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before any pesticide is approved for sale and use.
The federal government already has stringent and rigorous processes for registering every pesticide that is introduced in the market. The registration process provides a scientific foundation and legal framework that dictates what crops the pesticide can be used on; the amount, frequency, and timing of use; and the specific restrictions that have to be followed to protect human health and the environment.
We can only hope the joint fact-finding group will consider these facts and revise their final report to make this clear.
Bennette Misalucha is the executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, a nonprofit organization that focuses on community education and advocacy of fair laws to help farmers and communities succeed through modern agriculture practices. Member companies include BASF, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta.