Affected moms, children and community members meet with Governor David Ige, ask him to take action on the Kauaʻi Joint Fact Finding Report Recommendations
March 18, 2016 (Honolulu, HI)—20 community members are taking a stand after last week’s release of the Kauaʻi Joint Fact Finding (JFF) Report that revealed major gaps in pesticide reporting and regulations in Hawaiʻi. In a watershed moment for Hawai‘i’s movement for food justice, the citizens’ group delivered a list of demands to Governor David Ige, urging him to implement the recommendations published in the government-sponsored report.
Although Governor Ige sat down with the group in his office this morning and listened to their concerns, he did not make any commitments to implementing the recommendations. The Governor has agreed to review the demands and recommendations outlined in the report, and will follow-up with the group next week to indicate which recommendations from the report he intends to implement.
For communities facing daily threats of pesticide exposure, action is long overdue. Kaua‘i resident Lorna Cummings-Poe, one of the community members involved in today’s action says, “We have looked to all our elected leaders far too long for the protection of our children from these chemical companies. The state should fulfill its duty to retrieve and collect missing data about the health impacts of these pesticides.”
Of the highest priority demands were the state’s duty to overhaul its pesticides regulations to increase protection for those potentially exposed through pesticide drift, and to increase the monitoring of both pesticides and chronic illnesses associated with low-level, daily pesticide exposure.
“As a mother who comes from a community that is impacted most by pesticide drift, I have children who have tested positive for 36 different pesticides in their system, 8 of them restricted use,” says Malia Kahale‘ina Chun, a mother, educator and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner of Kekaha, Kaua‘i who marched with the group on the Governor’s office today. “As an elected official, I am demanding that he follow the urgent recommendations published in the government-mandated JFF report. The health and wellness of ALL of Hawaiʻi’s keiki and kūpuna, which comes before any corporate interests, are at stake.”
Kaua‘i resident and director of grassroots organization ‘Ohana O Kaua‘i Fern Rosensteil explains that for the past three years public efforts to increase protections have been met with resistance from the industry every step of the way. “We marched thousands strong through the streets, multiple times, on Kaua‘i. We fought industry lies and backlash during months of marathon hearings. We passed Kaua‘i County Bill 2491, overturned a mayoral veto, followed the democratic process and won. We won the very protections the JFFG study is recommending, only to be sued by the chemical companies to invalidate our law and stop these protections,” says Rosensteil.
Similarly, Autumn Ness, a Kihei resident, mother and founder of the group Maui United, says the group is marching on the Governor’s office because “We have used all of the tools of government to make change and our power has been repeatedly stolen from us. We have been left with no other choise. This is the situation that we have been put in, and we are not going away until our demands, which are supported by the JFF study, are met.”
Governor Ige has the executive power to implement the recommendations from the report; however, up until today, the Governor had not made any indication that he would implement the recommendations. The community members are asking Governor Ige to recognize that their concerns about pesticide exposure will not go away and the need for action is more urgent than ever before.
“The experts who contributed to the report are asking for the same things that the citizens of Hawaiʻi have been requesting for years – no-spray buffer zones, mandatory pesticide disclosure, increased data collection, monitoring and transparency,” Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety Director Ashely Lukens remarks. “The time has come when those affected have had enough and demand that those in office stand up for their health and the future for their keiki.”
The report is a product of a year-long investigation of the impacts and regulation of pesticide use by Hawaiʻi’s genetically engineered (GE) seed industry and Kauaʻi Coffee. The over 100-page report emphasizes the need for regular pesticide monitoring of air, water, soil and dust, and increased coordination between the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Office of Hawai‘i Affairs to implement the recommendations in a timely manner.
Today’s effort was made possible by the following groups: GMO Free Kauaʻi, Hawaii SEED, ‘Ohana O Kauaʻi, GMO Free Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action, Hawaiʻi Center for Food Safety, The MOM Hui, GMO Free Hawaiʻi Island, North Shore O.H.A.N.A and Maui United.