LIHUE — A Kauai hui involved in a lawsuit against the Hawaii Department of Natural Resources and the agroscience company Syngenta is continuing efforts to require the seed company to conduct an environmental review of their ongoing operations on the island’s Westside.
On Wednesday, Ke Kauhulu O Mana filed an appeal against a December order handed down in the environmental court on Kauai that rejected their argument that the state and Syngenta had failed to comply with HRS chapter 343, which governs Environmental Impact Statements.
The hui wants agroscience companies, starting with Syngenta, to conduct the lengthy assessments of their impacts to the environment because of alleged health and environment risks that come with the operations.
“We are the ones feeling the impacts from corporate agriculture,” said Westside resident Loui Cabebe, a member of Ke Kauhulu O Mana. “We are the ones who are hurting. We can see the damage that is being done to our land and to endangered birds and marine life. The burden should be on the companies to prove that their activities are safe.”
Cabebe continued: “Is it too much to ask our public officials to enforce our laws? Our regulators should hold corporations accountable. That is all we are asking them to do.”
Representatives from Syngenta did not return requests for comment before deadline on Wednesday.
The members of the hui, which are the plaintiffs in the case, believe Environmental Court Judge Randal Valenciano didn’t take the historical background of the land under consideration, according to Lance Collins, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Up until 1986, plaintiffs say, the land was solely approved for sugarcane seed growing, and they maintain the courts should look at the addition of other seed growing operations as “new agrichemical uses” with “cumulative impacts on health and the environment.”
“We believe the judge erred,” Collins said. “We were pleased that he acknowledged the relevance of the environmental law but his reasoning rested on his interpretation of ‘existing use’ and his readiness to accept Syngenta’s activities as a mere extension of that use.”