HONOLULU—Today the Kaua‘i Joint Fact Finding Study Group (JFFSG) released a report concluding that the state’s current regulation of pesticides is inadequate. The report’s recommendations are intended to guide Hawai‘i lawmakers and leaders in their work to advance much-needed reforms. Communities in Hawai‘i are now optimistic that Governor David Ige will initiate a major overhaul of the state’s sub-par pesticide regulations.
The pesticide-intensive genetically engineered (GE) seed industry in Hawai‘i and the close proximity of GE test fields to communities and residential areas makes it vital that the state enact measures to reduce the exposure of residents to harmful pesticides. “I have children who have tested positive for 36 different pesticides in their system, eight of them restricted use,” said Malia Kahale‘ina Chun, a mother, educator, and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner of Kekaha, Kaua‘i, a community directly impacted by pesticide drift. “I met with Governor Ige about this problem once already. My family and my community cannot wait any longer. I am confident that he understands that the time for action is now.”
The JFFSG’s pivotal report urges the Hawai‘i Governor, state lawmakers, and several state agencies to work in collaboration to better protect residents from exposure to harmful chemicals in the air and water, and to improve the monitoring of both pesticides and chronic illnesses associated with pesticide exposure. The report also calls for the implementation of a consistent, no-spray buffer policy around sensitive areas like schools to protect children from pesticide drift, and mandatory public disclosure of pesticide use by large agribusinesses throughout the state.
Public interest groups including Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club of Hawai‘i, Earthjustice, and Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action among others praised the study and its implications. “There is no doubt that pesticide usage is negatively impacting community health in Hawai‘i,” said Danya Hakeem, Program Director for Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety. “But the debate over genetic engineering and pesticides has become so contentious. We must continue to engage voices from all sides of the debate, and support processes to help us resolve difficult issues,” she added.
The JFFSG’s 100 plus-page report is the product of a year-long investigation into the impacts and regulation of pesticide use by Hawai‘i’s genetically engineered (GE) seed industry and Kaua‘i Coffee.
The study was conducted after communities impacted by pesticide drift passed an ordinance in 2014 on the island of Kaua‘i that would have required many of the report’s recommended measures be taken. This ordinance is currently held up in litigation as the pesticide companies Syngenta, Dow, DuPont-Pioneer and BASF sued the county to stop its implementation.
Accord 3.0, one of the leading conflict mediation organizations in the state, brought together a local working group of eight subject-matter experts with diverse viewpoints on the issue, including two employees of pesticide companies on Kaua‘i. The JFFSG worked for over 2,000 hours with the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture and County of Kaua‘i to conduct a joint fact finding process about the pesticide practices of large-scale agribusinesses; the human and environmental health impacts of exposure to pesticides associated with these operations; and the status of pesticide regulation in the state.