Statewide mandatory pesticide disclosure bill passes through House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee
February 4, 2016 (Honolulu, HI)— Responding to hundreds of concerned parents, citizens and advocacy groups, the State House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee voted to pass House Bill 2574, a bill that would make the state’s voluntary pesticide disclosure program mandatory.
“As a healthcare provider in our community, I highly support this bill,” says Me Fuimaono-Poe, a family nurse practitioner on O‘ahu. “Pesticide exposure can cause several acute and chronic illnesses. Without information on what pesticides are being used we are literally looking for a needle in a haystack. Mandatory disclosure will allow us to know which pesticides are being sprayed, and help my colleagues and I narrow down a probable diagnosis.”
Fuimaono adds that the notification piece in this bill is crucial for our communities. “The bill enables people to be aware that pesticides have been applied, so they can take precautions like staying away from the application area, closing their windows, keeping their children and pets out of the application zones.”
The bill builds on the Kaua‘i Agricultural Good Neighbor Program, which was established to allow companies that purchase large volumes of restricted-use pesticides on Kaua‘i to voluntarily disclose pesticide use. This program, although a good stepping stone, is an unreliable compromise to mandatory disclosure. The data is not verified by any party which leads to uncertainty of the validity of reporting. In November 2015, Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture Chair Scott Enright announced that the state would expand the voluntary “Agricultural Good Neighbor Program” on Kaua‘i so that residents on Maui, Moloka‘i, and O‘ahu could have a better understanding of the pesticide practices associated with genetically engineered (GE) crop field trials in their areas.
Available data from the program on Kaua‘i show that, between December 2013 to August 2015, a total application of 4,018.51 gallons and 2,389.86 pounds of concentrated restricted-use pesticides on Kaua‘i, by the five participating companies (Syngenta, Pioneer (Dupont), Dow AgroSciences, BASF and Kaua‘i Coffee). These acres are thought to be located within the 15,000 acres leased or owned by the companies participating in the program; however, information regarding the locations of where these pesticides are applied is not reported by this program. And because it is voluntary, there may have been additional pesticide applications that were not disclosed.
A recent report by Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety examines this data, and concludes the industry’s intensive pesticide practices endanger public health and the environment. The organization’s director Ashley Lukens shares that, “What we have learned about the pesticide practices of the GE seed industry on Kaua‘i is worthy of public concern. We’ve learned that the industry sprayed restricted use pesticides year round, sometimes as often as two out of every three days. They are regularly using chemicals like chlorpyrifos, which is linked to neuro-developmental delays in children.”
Public concern about pesticides remains one of the defining topics of this year’s legislative session. Last year, hundreds of citizens, including medical professionals, testified in support of several state bills that sought to establish mandatory pesticide disclosure, public notification and no-spray protective buffer zones for pesticides around schools. Despite public demand for stronger regulations, the bills were ultimately killed by the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Ways & Means.
Next, the bill must pass through the House Committee on Agriculture, which blocked similar legislation during the previous legislative session. Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety, along with allies and thousands of concerned members of the public, have pledged to do all they can to see the bill passed.