A Twofer – DOE bans herbicides & GMO acreage plummets

For those of us concerned about the increasing presence of pesticides in our food, water, land and air – there have been two recent and newsworthy developments here in Hawaii.

On June 25th, the Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) announced a ban of herbicide use at all Hawaii public schools.

On June 27th, the USDA reported that GMO seed corn production has dramatically dropped statewide by well over 50%. Extrapolating: The amount or Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) that are applied in the islands are likewise reduced by 50% or more.

Translation: Our community is a safer and healthier place today than it was yesterday.

According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the DOE action came after a community meeting at Leilehua High School called by Board of Education Chairwoman Catherine Payne to hear concerns about the use of herbicides and pesticides at schools.

The following day Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, after hearing that Roundup was being used on some campuses, sent a memo to all principals stressing that herb­icides are banned at Hawaii public schools. She also called for the immediate removal of any herbicides stored at schools.

Superintendent Kishimoto should be commended for her prompt action and follow through on this issue. While there is still work to be done in enforcing the DOE directive, the message to schools and principals statewide is loud and clear – the use of herbicides on public schools grounds is prohibited.

If herbicides can be banned by the DOE, what is to prevent similar action from being taken at County and State parks?

The strong and unequivocal action taken by the DOE would not have occurred without the active, informed and sustained community engagement supported by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations.

This represents a huge success in our communities ongoing effort to regulate dangerous chemicals on ALL islands.

The fact that the growing of experimental GMO corn and the related application of restricted use pesticides in Hawaii by the largest chemical companies in the world – has also been cut by half over the past 7 years – is also a huge and potentially even more significant development.

The official numbers speak for themselves.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently reported that statewide, GMO seed corn production in Hawaii has fallen by over 50% since 2011/2012 and today.

Both in terms of the estimated “value of the industry” and in terms of actual acres utilized, the shrinkage of the industry has been dramatic.

USDA latest reports on the size of the seed corn industry:

• 2011/2012 Value of Hawaii seed corn $230,000,000

• 2018/2019 Value of Hawaii seed corn $102,000,000

• 2011/2012 Total acreage of Hawaii seed corn 6,910 acres

• 2018/2019 Total acreage of Hawaii seed corn 2,530 acres

Note: The reduction of GMO seed corn acreage will not negatively impact Hawaii’s goal of food self-sufficiency. The vast majority of the GMO corn grown in Hawaii is for export and used primarily for cattle feed, high fructose corn syrup and ethanol. A tangible and positive impact of the industries decision to reduce the size of their operations could very well be the freeing up of additional lands (state owned agricultural lands), and at a lower cost – for use by small farmers and ranchers.

Summary of GMO seed corn grown in Hawaii can be found at: http://bit.ly/2FOE9at

What precipitated this huge reduction in Hawaii activity by Dow, Dupont, Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF and related companies? Though some have since changed their names, the underlying nature of their corporate operations (pesticide development and GMO seed development) has not. These corporations develop, produce, sell and use the pesticides. They also develop GMO plants to resist these same pesticides, allowing them to sell and use more of these products.

*Pesticide is a term used to include all herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, algaecides etc.

While not attempting to give credit or blame, on June 26, 2013 at or near the peak of GMO production and the related RUP use, Kauai County Bill 2491 proposing to regulate the industry was introduced. Since this time the constant negative media attention and seemingly endless lawsuits both locally and nationally have placed these companies under a withering microscope of scrutiny. Combine this with the passage of SB3095 in 2018, banning chlorpyrifos, requiring mandatory disclosure, and putting in place modest buffer zones around schools for ALL users of restricted use pesticides – and it’s no wonder this industry is seeking to reduce its footprint.

The official reasons given by industry representatives to the Honolulu StarAdvertiser are of course market related: “Hawaii’s seed crop industry has been shrinking…in large part because of maturing research, industry consolidation and corn price decreases…cost efficiencies have allowed companies to produce more seed at lower costs, and that this also has contributed to the declining measure of industry value.”

I have no doubt…but also no proof that the advocacy undertaken by our community and on all islands, has had an impact on the business decisions as to where to base and grow the operations of these chemical giants.

The risk managers of these international conglomerates know that in Hawaii there is more public action to come…more negative media attention, more legislation and more litigation. They also know that full disclosure (now mandated by state law via SB3095), means that residents (and lawyers) will know exactly what RUP’s were used, what day they were used and where they were used. With full disclosure comes the ability to finally study the health impacts on specific populations, and the ability of citizens (and lawyers) to make informed decisions.

If you have a child or a grandchild in public school, I encourage you to both celebrate and let your schools principal and teachers know of your support for the herbicide ban. If you live in an area that has historically been impacted by the pesticide intensive nature of industrial agriculture, likewise you should find some hope in the knowledge that the industries boot-print is shrinking, AND the benefits of SB3095 will soon be further impacting their operations – to your benefit.

•••

Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

13 Comments
  1. Lynn Bowen July 3, 2019 3:41 am Reply

    I applaud Kauai and The state as a whole for promoting all of this. We only have one Mother Earth. These chemical companies need to leave the state.


  2. Charlie Chimknee July 3, 2019 7:50 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    One lingering horrific effect of the currentt and former use of herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides, or any agricultural poisons is that Over time these poisons accumulate in the soil.

    All soil has microbes In the billions living in it. These microbes are a vital part of soil and contribute to how food or any plants or trees grow healthy.

    The agricultural poisons kill off things above and below ground, and because they are petrochemicals and are carcinogenic, meaning they cause cancer, they are very bad for humans and school children to be around.

    Even though, thank God, these poison using companies that spray poisons up to 320 days a year on their fields and overspray into schools, homes, and churches, are leaving Hawaii, they leave behind thousands of formerly fertile but now “dead” soil.

    Equally worse is that these poisons are in the intestines of very many of us humans and have or are killing off the billions of eubacteria in our gut.

    Eubacteria are good bacteria important for our body and food digestion, and our nutrition and health, and without them after being killed or poisoned by these agricultural poisons that get into our food, they kill off our good intestinal bacteria and we develop intestinal problems including cancers, that are treated with more cancer causing petrochemical medicines.

    It’s a vicious circle that can only be eliminated by eliminating the use of these poisons on our island.

    Good riddance to bad poison. We pity those farm workers trying to support their families and are exposed to the poison most days they go to work all year round.

    Protect yourself and family, and be sure your school bans the use of these poisons. Hopefully neighbors, hotels, condos will wise up to the growing concern over our health and lives.

    Banning poisons is Proactive HEALTH CARE.

    CHARLES


  3. drsurf July 3, 2019 7:51 am Reply

    A healthier environment equals healthier people – WIN-WIN for all.


  4. RG DeSoto July 3, 2019 9:20 am Reply

    An opposing view to Hooser’s propaganda…the facts:
    RG DeSoto
    Knee Jerk Reactions
    by Joni Kamiya, Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter, June 27, 2019
    Over 40 years ago, a brand new chemistry of weedkillers came out and revolutionized farming. No longer did farmers have to till the ground to reduce the weed pressure in their fields. This product also was much safer than any of the chemicals used earlier. That weedkiller was glyphosate.
    Back in the 60’s, farmers used many highly toxic crop protection products on farms to reduce bugs and weeds. As a result, many farmers landed up in emergency rooms with some even dying. When glyphosate came out, my dad was amazed that something so low in toxicity worked great on the farm. It was revolutionary to see weeds gone and better produce resulting.
    Many long time farmers know the evolution of crop protection over the decades. What they started with worked well but was very dangerous. As more research developed over the years, improved products became available as old stuff got phased out.
    Fast forward to 2019 and expensive ads are being played on the radio and newspaper phishing for victims of glyphosate. Many of the court cases are not even farmers who have had long exposures over decades to it which is of no surprise. The activists could not get the results they wanted in a scientific study and instead went to the courtroom to make their case.
    Although the many regulatory agencies around the world have found that Roundup is not a carcinogen, the juries are finding otherwise. These cases are being awarded multimillion to billion dollar verdicts, farmers are still working their fields like they’ve done for decades. The media has been quick to craft scary stories about what happens in the fields.
    Thanks to lots of undisclosed funding through non-profit “advocacy” lobbying groups, Dewayne Johnson is touring Hawaii about the dangers of glyphosate. I swear I read that the case had to be expedited because of his deteriorating health months ago but now he is able to tour Hawaii. He has even rallied our State Department of Education Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to ban the use of herbicides on campus and seek organic alternatives!
    The fear of cancer and the need to “protect the keiki” likely shut down the Superintendent’s critical thinking skills because it does not appear that the Department of Agriculture was consulted. As a parent of public school kids, I am angered by this lack of logic and critical thinking by the leadership of the DOE.
    My kids get served hot dogs, spam, and other processed meats which are known carcinogens, yet she thinks banning weedkiller is a good thing? Does she realize that weed growth harbors rats, ants, snails, slugs, and mosquitoes? We could be increasing keiki’s exposure to rat lungworm disease and even dengue fever! Let’s not forget that little fire ants were found in my community also. I guess school gardens will become infested by pests too and modern agricultural practices will go out the window.
    I wonder if Dr. Kishimoto recalls how the current lieutenant governor Josh Green demanded that public schools be sprayed for mosquitoes after an outbreak of dengue fever occurred on the Big Island. I bet fearful parents were not happy and would rather take the consequence of getting dengue fever instead. It begs the question where I have to ask, how much should we listen to the angry, fearful mob? Is that doing us any good?
    Dr. Kishimoto’s reaction to reject the science and ignore agriculture is just another mark on the board of the same people pushing only organic agriculture and a complete rejection of science and critical thinking. Those same parents demanding no pesticides probably don’t vaccinate for the fear of “toxins” rule their lives. I even chuckle because the ban is limited to staff and not to all the homeowners who live right beside the school. Even a volunteer parent could apply weedkiller on campus too given the way she has written her “ban.”
    We will all pay for the bad decisions made by the leadership in Hawaii. The fact that the Hawaii Department of Education and even the Board of Education is moving us in this direction means another nail in the coffin for agriculture.


  5. manawai July 3, 2019 9:21 am Reply

    While “true believers” (aka fanatics) like the author attempt to take credit for the reduction in corn seed farming in Hawaii, the truth is that with the foundering of ethanol as a fuel additive across the nation caused the severe drop in the price of corn, hence the reduction in corn acreage here in Hawaii. This is just another in the long list of falsehoods purveyed by this author who never once visited, although he was often invited, a single corn grower in Hawaii to actually witness the operations and the application of pesticides and herbicides by these companies. No, he chose to sit at this computer and make up or repeat falsehoods to help raise money for his pals at The Center For Food Security (a misnomer) and his own non-profit (how fitting) HAPA entity which is his source of income after his embarrassing business and legislative failures not to mention collecting taxes from honest citizens and pocketing the money himself. Remember, the author was all against GMO until he and his buddies realized that there is absolutely zero evidence that GMO foods are harmful or not as nutritious as organic. So they changed their target to pesticides. Talk about obvious propaganda for monetary compensation and self-aggrandizement!


  6. LMat July 3, 2019 10:42 am Reply

    Oh my gooooooood Gary, do you ever just shut up?
    First of all, what is “experimental gmo corn”? This isn’t even a thing. That is a totally fabricated phrase that you or some other propagandist put together for the sole purpose of creating an effect. Hawaii grows seed for seed corn production or crop improvement trials that lead to seed corn production. I don’t know what kind of “experiments” you think are being done here…?
    And do you seriously think you had ANY impact on decreasing corn acreage in Hawaii?!! Wow. Can you be any more pompous and egotistical? Or maybe just really really dense?
    Decreasing industry presence can be attributed to exactly what was pointed out in your annoying tirade: industry consolidation (NOT simply “name changes” as you state, though nice try), corn price decreases (from a high of over $8 a bushel in 2012 to as low as $3 in 2016; we are at just over $4 today), and better cost and land management and efficiencies (we can produce more seed with less cost on less land, which is a good thing). As an employee of an agriculture company here on Kauai, I can assure you, you and your advocacy of unscientific, biased, and down-right ignorant propaganda has NOT “contributed to the declining measure of industry value”. Thanks for keeping that fire lit though, your endless attempts at trying to stay relevant and keep the community divided only inspires us to persevere and try harder in fighting the forces of stupidity and ignorance.


  7. Chris Faye July 3, 2019 11:46 am Reply

    There are consequences to banning chemical controls that are never addressed aside from health. They are used to decrease manual labor. If you take them away, the manual labor has to be put back in place. increase the budgets for school landscaping maintenance. We already have dangerous road conditions because of out of control guinea grass because no one wants to pay for or do manual labor. It is expensive.


  8. Joan Conrow July 4, 2019 3:18 am Reply

    This piece perfectly sums up Hooser’s flawed thinking process — the wild extrapolations with no basis in fact, his certainty that he knows something though he has no proof, and most of all, his delusions of grandeur. The reduction in seed crop acreage in Hawaii had nothing to do with Hooser and his shenanigans and everything to do with mergers, consolidations and global commodity markets. Yet he takes credit — and sends this same piece out to his followers with a request for donations. That’s how conflict activism works. You create an enemy and fan the flames of fear to raise money. Thank goodness the voters soundly kicked this charlatan out of office. Oh, and Hooser, don’t even try to make your usual shill accusations against me because we both know that’s another lie.


  9. Charlie Chimknee July 4, 2019 6:25 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    One lingering horrific effect of the current and former use of herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides, or any agricultural poisons is that Over time these poisons accumulate in the soil.

    All soil has microbes In the billions living in it. These microbes are a vital part of soil and contribute to how food or any plants or trees grow healthy.

    The agricultural poisons kill off important living microbes above and below ground, and because they are petrochemicals and are carcinogenic, meaning they cause cancer, they are very bad for humans and school children to be around., much les the soil.

    Even though, thank God, these poison using companies that spray poisons up to 320 days a year on their fields and overspray into schools, homes, and churches, are leaving Hawaii, they leave behind thousands of acres of formerly fertile but now “dead” soil.

    Equally worse is that these poisons are in the intestines of very many of us humans and have or are killing off the billions of eubacteria in our gut.

    Eubacteria are good bacteria important for our body and food digestion, and our nutrition and health, and without them after them being killed or poisoned by these agricultural poisons that get into our food, they kill off our good intestinal bacteria and we develop intestinal problems including cancers, that are treated with more cancer causing petrochemical medicines.

    It’s a vicious circle that can only be eliminated by eliminating the use of these poisons on our island.

    Good riddance to bad poison. We pity those farm workers trying to support their families and are exposed to the poison most days they go to work all year round.

    Protect yourself and family, and be sure your school bans the use of these poisons. Hopefully neighbors, hotels, condos will wise up to the growing concern over our health and lives due to the detriment of agricultural poisons.

    Banning poisons is Proactive form HEALTH CARE and can preclude the need for medical Disease Care., a for sure blessing to those who do not become ill for any reason.

    Mahalo for reading,

    Charles


  10. Tom Niblick July 4, 2019 7:35 am Reply

    Thank you Garry for leading this fight. You have made this island a better place.


  11. Charlie Chimknee July 4, 2019 11:21 pm Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides…kill weeds, mice and rats, and insects…kind of goes without saying that they are Agriculture poison…as a result these poisons are poisonous. What part of poison do apparently too many people not understand.

    I’m sad for children fed carcinogenic hot dogs and Spam, and their parents do nothing. What will they do or feel for their kids when they have Stage 4 Cancer.

    There are organic farmers on island, how do they grow and do not need poisons.

    The more you poison bugs and bacteria the stronger they become requiring more lethal chemicals.

    Forgive them Father for they know what they Eat and Inhale.


  12. Amused July 5, 2019 4:06 am Reply

    First Hooser creates a problem where none exists, then takes credit for the “solution.” Typical politician and propagandist. Perfect for leading the sheeple.


  13. Gary Hooser July 7, 2019 11:09 am Reply

    Happy to see that my column struck a chord with many readers! And yes, the same three commenters who are in denial of the fact that pesticides are harmful to health and the environment, still continue their predictable rants.

    Joan Conrow is a paid industry shill employed by the Cornell Alliance for Science https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu Fortunately (for all of us) she moved away from Kauai many years ago and now resides in New Mexico. Readers who follow this subject matter will notice she is one of a handful of my regular stalkers, obsessed with and outraged by every word I utter on the topic. In the past she was paid to write pro environmental stuff which she did for many years (and her friends were all environmentalists), and now she is paid to write pro GMO stuff which she does well (and her friends are all pro GMO Monsanto/Bayer/Dow/Dupont/Syngenta folks). Because Joan and others get paid to do this type of work, I totally understand their motivation and do not take it personally! LOL

    A few facts to clear up. Yes, I sometimes ask people to donate money to the 501c3 Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), but I receive zero income from HAPA and serve the organization as a volunteer and without pay.

    The issue of “experimental gmo corn”: A visit to the State Department of Health will provide anyone who is interested in looking – with hundreds of permits from he federal government granted to these companies to GMO research and experiment with corn and other food crops in Hawaii. In addition you will see “experimental pesticide use permits”. Unfortunately, much of this information is redacted so readers are unable to determine exactly where in Hawaii (other than the County) these experiments/research is taking place, nor exactly the nature of the research except that it involves the modification of genetic material in food crops.

    Anyone reading my column with anything remotely resembling an impartial viewpoint…will see that I presented both sides of the question as to why these companies are l reducing their Hawaii operations.

    One commenter also claimed that the DOE should consult with the DOA on whether or not to ban herbicides from school grounds…err…the commenter clearly does not understand the two agencies have different missions and the DOA’s mission is to promote agriculture…they clearly are not involved with education nor are they responsible for the health and safety of school children while they are at school. The DOE has decided to act on the side of caution which is the responsible thing to do when you are responsible for children and their health and safety.

    Finally I would like to point out two other things, not included in the column. First: The great majority of herbicide use at schools and parks are for aesthetics, and not for safety reasons (as may be claimed by roads and highway users). In short, some people just don’t like looking at weeds. Second: The same chemical companies that are downsizing their operations in Hawaii due to “global market conditions, low corn prices and industry consolidation, are in fact expanding their operations elsewhere in the world in places such as Puerto Rico, were land is available, the weather provides a year round growing season and the government regulatory environment is lax.


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