HONOLULU — Hawaii became the first state in the nation to ban chlorpyrifos with the Wednesday signing of SB3095 by Gov. David Ige.
The safety of the restricted use pesticide has been up for debate on both the national and state stages and in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that chlorpyrifos be banned from all food crops.
During the signing, Ige acknowledged both the need to protect the health and safety of residents and keiki, while also protecting the viability of Hawaii’s agricultural industry.
“We will work with the Department of Agriculture, local farmers and the University of Hawaii as we seek safe, alternative pest management tools that will support and sustain our agriculture industry for generations to come,” Ige said.
Jeri Di Pietro, of Hawaii SEED, said she and the rest of the organization are thrilled to be the first in the nation to ban chlorpyrifos and is proud Kauai had a hand in that.
“While Kauai may be too small in population to be statistically substantial, we can be proud of this unanimous vote as a start to protecting our children,” Di Pietro said. “It is apparent that now they are understanding the risks of pesticides better after many years of community education. We believe this is a good start, and that we will see more actions in the future.”
Proponents of the ban on the restricted-use-pesticide, which will take effect in January, are celebrating it as a first step toward protecting children and residents from pesticide-related health problems, but opponents say it has potential to impact small farmers in a negative way.
Chlorpyrifos is among the world’s most widely used pesticides. It’s commonly sprayed on citrus fruits, apples and other crops.
Hawaii Crop Improvement Association and its executive director Bennette Misalucha have been involved in the process as the bill was kicked through the Legislature.
During that time, she voiced concerns that it may take options away from farmers in areas like invasive pest control, and may have other negative impacts on farmers statewide.
But, the member companies represented by HCIA — Hartung Brothers, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Pioneer will abide by the new rules, Misalucha said.
“As responsible neighbors and good stewards of their farms and communities, our member companies will continue to comply with all applicable federal and state rules and regulations, including this new law,” she said.
She said member companies will continue to advocate for positive policies that encourage further development of new and existing farmers statewide and help meet the state’s goal to increase local food production.
In addition to banning chlorpyrifos, the new law establishes a 100-foot buffer zone for restricted-use pesticide use around schools during instructional hours, and require commercial agriculture entities to regularly report their pesticide use.
Companies that need more time to respond to the chlorpyrifos ban may apply for extensions via temporary permits, which will be available only until Dec. 31, 2022. After this date there will be no exceptions and chlorpyrifos will be banned in the state of Hawaii.
The law also provides $300,000 from the Pesticides Revolving Fund for staffing, education and outreach as well as $300,000 from general revenues to develop a pesticide drift monitoring study at three schools within the state.
Meanwhile, those who have been working for a decade or longer on the issue are celebrating a landmark law.
Fern Holland has been working on passing a law like the newly minted chlorpyrifos ban for the past 11 years, with the past six being devoted to the movement at the state and county levels. She took up the issue as a platform during a run for the District 14 seat of the State House.
“There were incredible highs and lows over the last six years. We passed Bill 2491 with unprecedented community empowerment, grassroots action and a whirlwind of emotions and passion,” Holland said.
She pointed out the years worth of court battles with seed companies after they sued the County of Kauai for their rule forcing pesticide use disclosure when spraying around homes and schools.
That law was deemed invalid by federal, district and appellate courts in 2017, so proponents set their sights on the state legislature instead.
“We picked back up and we sat back down at the drawing board and moved forward,” Holland said.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last year reversed an effort by President Barack Obama’s administration to bar its use on fruits and vegetables. The Obama administration acted after peer-reviewed academic studies found even tiny levels of exposure could hinder child brain development.
Geoff Morris, who roams Kauai as the GMO Reaper, said he thinks there were a lot of concessions made throughout the process, but says it’s a step in the right direction.
“Some of it won’t go into effect for years. I still think we need to push for total disclosure and eventually these companies will leave,” he said. “I think Kauai has played a major role in the global movement and I’m proud of (having) been a part of that.”
Jessica Else, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or by email at email@example.com.