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Hawaiʻi Becomes First State in the U.S. to Ban Chlorpyrifos

June 14, 2018
Center for Food Safety

Hawaii Becomes First State in the U.S. to Ban Chlorpyrifos

The toxic pesticide has been linked to asthma and developmental delays in children

HONOLULU, HAWAIʻI — Yesterday, Hawai'i made history as Governor Ige signed SB 3095 into law and Hawai'i became the first state in the U.S. to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin that causes significant damage to brain development in children. The pesticide's detrimental health effects led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration to propose banning all of its agricultural uses, but the Pruitt-led EPA under the current administration reversed this pledge. In addition to banning chlorpyrifos, the bill creates 100 foot no-spray buffer zones around schools and requires large-scale pesticide users to disclose the Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) they are spraying. Center for Food Safety (CFS) provided significant legal and policy assistance to this effort, including helping draft the legislation, lobby for its passage, and encourage public participation in the legislative process. CFS also published the first-ever analysis of pesticide use data and its relationship to field trials of genetically engineered crops in Hawai'i.

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety, which has consistently championed for regulation of pesticide use in the State of Hawai'i and nationally, emphasized that the passage of this bill is a stepping stone towards even stronger legislation: "Hawai'i is prioritizing the health of its children and the environment over industry preferences. Hawai'i is taking action that Pruitt's EPA refused to take by banning chlorpyrifos," said Kimbrell. "Hawai'i is courageously taking the first step towards pesticide policies that will provide for more protection for children as well as more transparency. We believe that other states will follow Hawai'i's lead."

Ashley Lukens, director of Hawaiʻi Center for Food Safety, applauded the community for their unwavering tenacity in this nearly decade long battle for better public health protections. "The families of Hawaiʻi have fought year after year, against millions of dollars of industry spending, all for these basic protections from dangerous pesticides. During these dark Trumpian times, we need stories like this to remind ourselves that when we persevere, we win. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "The arch of history is long but it bends towards justice."

SB 3095 represents a turning point for Hawai'i, and marks a new chapter for its residents, who have repeatedly demanded protection against pesticide harms. The world's largest agrichemical companies, such as Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta, experiment and develop their genetically engineered crops in Hawaiʻi. Because the majority of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides, testing and development of these crops result in repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals. Many of their operations are adjacent to schools and residential areas, putting children and public health at risk. Voluntarily reported pesticide use data shows that these companies apply thousands of gallons and pounds of RUPs in Hawaii each year.

In 2013 and 2014, the counties of Kauaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi Island passed ordinances to regulate the pesticide practices of the GE seed industry. Despite broad popular support, the industry responded by suing each of the counties, arguing that they county lacked the authority to regulate pesticides. CFS attorneys defended the Counties in Federal Court. Unfortunately, the ordinances were overturned, forcing community members to pivot their efforts to the state. Since 2015 a coalition of community members led, in part, by CFS, introduced legislation each year asking for a statewide framework for no-spray buffer zones and disclosure. Thousands of people testified each session in support of the bill's passage. Much of the testimony can be found on the HCFS Facebook page.

The bill, which goes into effect in July 2018, will ban chlorpyrifos by January 2019. Any user that wishes to continue using chlorpyrifos may do so only by applying for an exemption with the State. No exemption will be granted after 2022. The mandatory reporting and no-spray zone provisions are effectively immediately with no exemptions.  

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