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Hawai'i CFS

Hawai'i Legislature Fails to Protect Residents from Impacts of Industrial Pesticide Use

April 6th, 2017
Center for Food Safety


Hawaiʻi Legislature Fails to Protect Residents from Impacts of Industrial Pesticide Use

Opportunity lost for meaningful regulation of toxic pesticides

HONOLULU— Today the Hawai‘i House failed to pass a bill that would protect island residents from widespread industrial pesticide use. SB804 HD1 would have required commercial agricultural operations that use large volumes of restricted-use pesticides to submit annual reports detailing their applications of all pesticides. It would have also set aside an unspecified amount of money to the pesticide use revolving fund, and given money to the University of Hawai‘i’s medical school to study the exposure of pregnant women to dangerous pesticides (such as chlorpyrifos). With this failure from the legislature, a local coalition of public interest, environmental, and food groups are now turning to the governor to take action to protect Hawai‘i residents.

“The continued failure of our lawmakers to pass such a simple, yet necessary piece of legislation is downright shameful. We have a right to know when we are being exposed to toxic pesticides. Period. There is no debate,” said Ashley Lukens, director of Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety (HCFS) and Honolulu resident. “In the absence of legislative action, it is back on the governor and the Department of Agriculture to take action and make their Good Neighbor Program mandatory.”

“The lack of even the most modest regulations in our state can only be understood as a form of ‘regulatory capture’. Our regulatory agencies and legislators, who are tasked with acting in the public interest, are instead advancing the commercial interests of the corporations which dominate the sector they are supposed to regulate,” says Anne Frederick, executive director of HawaiÊ»i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and Anahola resident. 

This session saw major clashes between legislators on all sides of the issue. Advocates from the Neighbor Islands bemoaned the continued lack of action.

“From Kekaha to Poipu, our community feels a lack of representation by Rep Dee Morikawa. As a member of the health committee, she dismisses our pleas to stop the spraying of toxic chemicals, such as the neurotoxin chlorpyrifos,” says Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawai‘i SEED and Koloa resident.  “State agencies have found chlorpyrifos in air and bee pollen studies, field workers have fallen ill from chlorpyrifos exposure, citizens found chlorpyrifos in air sampling and yet she continues to actively work against our pleas for protective measures.” 

“Subsistence provides for almost 40% of our food for MolokaÊ»i families, we rely on the health of our environment for our survival. Disclosure is an important step in empowering our community to protect our resources,” says environmental lawyer and Moloka‘i resident, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez. “Killing SB804 shuts the door on our community once again.”

The industrial agriculture sector’s pesticide use across the Hawaiian Islands has been cause for grave concern from many who feel it warrants increased oversight. KauaÊ»i Good Neighbor Program data shows that, between December 2013 to November 2016, 6,121.3 gallons and 5,102.34 pounds of concentrated restricted use pesticides were applied on Kaua‘i by the five participating companies (Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF and Kaua‘i Coffee). The companies applied these restricted use pesticides to some portion of the 12,500 acres they own or lease on KauaÊ»i. SB804 would have mandated the disclosure of pesticide information to communities, acknowledging the community’s right to know about the chemicals applied where they live, work, and play.

“When it comes time for real action, our elected officials are all afraid to stand up to the chemical companies,” says Autumn Ness, community advocate and Kihei resident. “The fear and inaction from our government leaders' puts our community members in the crosshairs.”

Mitigating potential chronic exposure to known toxins through pesticide disclosure and notification takes a precautionary approach towards protecting the future of our keiki. It provides doctors and the community with the necessary data they need to determine if adverse health outcomes in Waimea are linked to increased pesticide use by the GE seed industry. The state’s failure to pass SB804 and other safeguarding bills during this legislative session shows capitulation to the pesticide industry and a costly missed opportunity for government to play its proper regulatory role to protect citizens.


A 2016 Joint Fact Finding Study Group (JFFSG) report revealed major gaps in state regulations of pesticides and the agrichemical industry responsible for exposing residents and communities to known toxins, and recommended that state government set new standards for chronic, low-level exposure to pesticides over time, rather than solely focusing on one-time acute exposure. In particular the report called 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.

Additional Resources:

HCFS “Pesticides in Paradise” Report
Joint Fact Finding Study Group Report

More information can be found at:


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