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Standing up to Corporate Bullies: Kauai Community Moves to Defend County's Pesticide Disclosure Law

February 24th, 2014
Center for Food Safety

A coalition of Kaua‘i residents and public interest groups, represented by Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice, today filed papers in federal district court in Honolulu moving to intervene as defendants.  The nonprofits seek to defend their interests by defending the County of Kaua‘i’s 2013 pesticide disclosure law from a legal challenge by multinational chemical companies.   

Ordinance 960 (formerly known as Bill 2491) was enacted into law to protect Kaua‘i residents and the environment from exposure to pesticides applied to genetically engineered (GE) crops in the wake of repeated incidents of schoolchildren and other residents suffering symptoms of pesticide exposure, and inaction by State of Hawai‘i authorities.  The GE industry grows experimental and other GE crops on thousands of acres on the small island, in many places close to schools, homes, and waterways, and is known to spray some of the most toxic pesticides still in use, such as the organophosphate chlorpyrifos. The law requires the disclosure of pesticide and GE crops used on the island, and establishes buffer zones around sensitive locations like schools and hospitals.

“Center for Food Safety stands with the people of Kaua‘i, and will protect this legally sound and important law from the pesticide industry’s attacks,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety.

Earthjustice managing attorney Paul Achitoff commented, “The spectacle of four multibillion-dollar multinational chemical companies suing for the right to continue spraying Kaua‘i’s residents with acutely toxic chemicals, and to keep what they spray and when they spray it a secret, is shameful. Our clients deserve protection, and we will see that they get it.”

The Kaua‘i County Council voted to enact the law in November 2013, overriding Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto.  In January 2014, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (owned by DuPont), Agrigenetics, Inc. (owned by Dow Chemical), and BASF Plant Science LP, which collectively farm some 12,000 acres on the island, sued the County, claiming the law is not legally valid.  Given the deep rifts in County government between the Mayor, the County Attorney, and the County Council over the law’s advisability—six weeks later, the County has yet to even retain counsel to defend itself--a coalition of concerned organizations, including residents who live near the fields and who have suffered the effects of spraying, today filed court papers to defend themselves.

The coalition of intervening groups is Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), and Surfrider Foundation, and a citizen group of directly affected residents, Ka Makani Ho‘opono, “The Wind That Makes Right.”  

“We’re joining with the people of Kaua‘i and standing up to bullying by three of the world’s largest pesticide corporations," said Paul Towers, organizing and media director at Pesticide Action Network, speaking on behalf of the organization's 1300 members in Kaua‘i County. “Kaua‘i has become the testing grounds for the genetically engineered seeds and pesticides of a handful of corporations. These powerful interests hope to keep residents in the dark about what‘s being applied next door to the places where children live, learn and play.”

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Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture.  CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon, and has more than 300,000 members across the country.  More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law organization dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.  Earthjustice.org

 

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