Council expected to discuss repealing GMO bill recently ruled invalid in federal court

LIHUE — When councilmembers gather for the first full council meeting of the new term this week, they are expected to discuss repealing the GMO bill that was recently ruled invalid in federal court.

Bill No. 2491, also known as Ordinance 960, was introduced in 2013 by former Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser.

It sought to regulate the use of GMOs and pesticides by requiring mandatory disclosure of GMO and pesticide use by large agricultural businesses, and prohibiting open air testing of experimental pesticides and GMOs.

The Kauai County Council passed the bill 6-to-1 in October 2013.

“It was the worst decision in the history of Kauai politics,” said Councilman Ross Kagawa.

The measure was vetoed later that month by Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho.

The bill was also overturned in the federal court. And on Nov. 18, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the court’s ruling that the Hawaii Pesticides Law preempts the county’s laws.

“(County attorney) Mauna Kea did a 66-page opinion that it would be ruled invalid,” Kagawa said. “Then a federal judge ruled exactly what he predicted and the court of appeals agreed. How many judges need to say ‘No?”

On Wednesday, the council will discuss Bill No. 2643, which seeks to repeal Chapter 22, Article 23 of the Kauai County Code, as it relates to pesticides and GMOs.

“I see no reason to go through another state or federal proceeding,” Kagawa said. “I don’t see why we’d get another answer.”

Mel Rapozo, council chair, said the bill is a housekeeping measure, because of the recent court decision.

“Going forward, I am hoping that this will begin the healing process for Kauai,” he said.

But Hooser said the proposed repeal of Bill No. 2491 isn’t going to put the issue to rest.

“Because of the court ruling invalidating it, the repeal of Bill 2491 will have no tangible impact and is thus simply a political statement reconfirming the influence of Syngenta, DOW Chemical, DuPont and BASF in our community,” Hooser said.

“It saddens me that rather than advocate for comprehensive testing and increased protections for Westside residents, Council Chair Rapozo and Council Vice Chair Kagawa choose instead only to carry water for the chemical companies.”

GMOs and pesticides on Kauai are regulated by Hawaii Department of Agriculture, which follows stand- ards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The regulations are made up of standards from several entities, like Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, or APHIS, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, according to the USDA website.

Regulations from the APHIS include a petition process for a GMO or pesticide that includes giving information about the biology of a plant, experimental data and publications, genotypic and phenotypic descriptions of the genetically engineered organism, and field test reports, according to USDA.

The agency then evaluates the organism for potential pest risks, disease and pest susceptibilities and others.

The EPA requires a registration process that regulates the sale, distribution and use of pesticidal substances produced in plants and microbes. EPA also sets tolerance limits for leftover pesticides in food, according to USDA.

The FDA requires all food, whether derived by natural breeding or by genetic engineering, is held to the same safety standards like making sure they are properly labeled.

On Kauai, Kagawa hopes to work with the stakeholders to find other solutions.

“Let’s find other ways, if there’s concerns out there,” he said. “There’s other means to deal with it other than passing invalid laws.”

But before the measure can go into effect, it has to go through a public hearing before it goes back to the council for a second reading and final action, Kagawa said.

The fate of several other measures are expected to be decided Wednesday at the council meeting.

  • Bill No. 2635, which seeks to allow the sale of alcohol at the Wailua Golf Course via “roving concessions.”

The Public Works and Parks and Recreation Committee unanimously approved the bill Dec. 7, which means they recommended approval at the full council.

  • Bill No. 2628, which seeks to allow permitting for street vendors in county-owned streets during events like Kapaa First Saturday and Hanapepe Art Night.

The purpose of the bill is to give the event organizers, like the Hanapepe Economic Alliance and the Kapaa Business Association, control over their event, as well as allowing them to apply for an all-encompassing revocable permit for every vendor. The Public Works and Parks and Recreation Committee unanimously voted to kill the bill Dec. 7, giving its writers time to re-write it.

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