Pesticide disclosure bill nixed

HONOLULU — The bill that would require chemical companies to give notice before spraying restricted use pesticides around sensitive areas died on the Hawaii House floor on Thursday.

House Bill 790 would have required advance disclosure of RUP spraying around certain bodies of water, schools and other sensitive areas.

“This badly written bill died because it would have hurt the ag industry large or small,” said Rep. Dee Morikawa, (D-16, Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea).

She said such measures are already in place. The Department of Agriculture is required to publish on its website the public information contained in restricted use pesticide records, reports, or forms submitted to the department. That was based on a law Morikawa introduced in 2013.

“The concerns expressed today are the same as in 2013,” Morikawa said. “It was contentious, but the industry agreed to do it and if you look on the website of the Hawaii Agricultural Good Neighbor Program, you will see this reporting occurs in a fairly timely manner by the large Kauai businesses.”

HB 790 was one of more than 20 pesticide-related measures that have been proposed in the Legislature this session. It passed through three committees and failed during a final House vote.

“At a time when the governor himself is asking that the state double its food production we are heartened that the representatives listened to the hundreds of farmers who called and clamored for reason,” said Bennette Misalucha, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.

But, those fighting for RUP disclosure and buffer zones for RUP use were disappointed with the Legislature’s action.

Fern Rosenstiel, who was instrumental in Kauai’s disclosure law, also known as Bill 2491, said the push for disclosure and buffer zones will continue.

“It’s the state’s responsibility now to protect the people from pesticides and pesticide drift,” Rosenstiel said. “It’s taken five years of hard work to get to this point. Change takes time.”

In November, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared the Kauai disclosure and buffer zone law invalid because it preempted state jurisdiction.

Members of GMO Free Kauai said they’re deeply disappointed in the action taken on the bill, but their momentum toward their cause hasn’t slowed.

“Unfortunately it is not a surprise that the non-committal legislators lack political will when it comes to protecting our island chain from spraying restricted chemical cocktails by enforcing the most basic precautions,” said Jeri Di Pietro of GMO Free Kauai and Hawaii SEED.

Di Pietro also referenced the 2016 Joint Fact Finding Study Group, which released a report that called for implementation of a no-spray buffer policy around sensitive areas like schools, to protect children from pesticide drift.

“It seems illogical to see the mandatory disclosure, the most modest request fail, especially after the JFFG report specifically recommends this and more,” Di Pietro said. “The government continues to be derelict in their duties to the protect the community and environmental resources from harm.”

Misalucha said the presence of the bill in the Legislature emphasizes the need for education when it comes to RUPs.

“I think we need to focus on trying to educate everyone, including legislators, on the science and rationale behind pesticides,” she said.

For organizations like Center for Food Safety to say the Legislature failed to protect Hawaii’s keiki isn’t true, Morikawa said.

“We work every day on issues to protect the public’s health and safety,” she said. “My greatest disappointment is to see the social media harassment, people lashing out at each other, and just a division in the community.”


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