After their surprise and stunning victory against Monsanto and the big agrochemical companies in the Maui ballot initiative in November 2014, the Center for Food Safety and the entire anti-GMO, anti-pesticide movement decided to pursue their policy agenda aimed at environmental health and safety with initiatives that establish pesticide buffer zones around schools and hospitals in Hawaii and require notification disclosure of restricted-use pesticides near sensitive populations.
In fact, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island all have passed legislation at the county level that regulates the seed industry, but the federal courts assert that it is the state government, not counties, that holds this power. The result is tumultuous legislative activity at the state level.
Modeling their legislation on precedents in many other states, the coalition worked with state Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kailua-Lanikai-Waimanalo) and Sen. Josh Green (D, Naalehu-Kailua-Kona) to draft the four bills in the House and Senate.
Opposition comes from global agricultural companies concerned that these measures could jeopardize their ability to maintain yearlong growing seasons in Hawaii and that buffer zones in some places could curtail the amount of land usable for crops. Hawaii's $243 million seed industry represents a formidable special interest with a powerful lobby.
Buffer zones are critical to controlling drift, argue proponents of HB 1514. No one wants pesticides to end up in the wrong place, but especially with Hawaii's tradewinds, safety demands that these chemicals remain well away from sensitive populations in particular.
Several legislators, including Sen. Jill Tokuda (D, Kailua-Kaneohe), expressed concern that it would be counterproductive to pass any bills unless the Department of Agriculture has the ability to enforce provisions.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Clift Tsuji (D, Hilo-Glenwood) did not call a hearing for SB 1037 because of concerns regarding the bill's broad application to farmers he said.
This is not an agricultural issue, it is a health issue, says Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe), the ranking member on the House Energy and Environmental Protection committee. She notes that after 7,000 studies on one pesticide called Atrazine, Mark Phillipson, a Syngenta representative, could not confirm that the pesticide is safe.
Glycophosphate was brought to market by Monsanto under the trade name Roundup in 1974 at the time that DDT was banned. It took another 20 years, though, before genetically modified seeds for crops such as corn and soy could withstand Roundup while the weeds around them were wiped out. Recently, however, the International Agency on Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, published an article in the journal Lancet Oncology stating that Roundup was now "classified as probably carcinogenic to humans." The article discussed evidence from human studies, primarily agricultural, in the U.S., Canada and Sweden published since 2001. Monsanto, now the world's largest seed company, disagreed with the conclusions.
Although all bills relating to the health impact of pesticides that were introduced this legislative session stalled, the push to protect Hawaii is far from over. This legislative session, I have come to appreciate not only the effort among lawmakers, but also the widespread grass-roots initiatives among the people of Hawaii, as well as local and national nonprofits. Most notable among these is the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, an environmental advocacy organization that works to protect human and environmental health by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies. With a broad yet comprehensive approach to achieving results, CFS is a valuable way to get involved and get your voice heard.
Contact them at centerforfoodsafety.org.
HB1514, RELATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Establishes disclosure requirements for outdoor applications of pesticides in proximity to schools, child care facilities, and certain commercial agricultural entities. Establishes reasonable pesticide buffer zones for sensitive areas. Establishes penalties. (HD1)
Status: Deferred by House Committee on Agriculture
SB793, RELATING TO THE HEALTH IMPACT OF PESTICIDES
Establishes mandatory notice, reporting and use requirements when pesticides are applied outdoors near sensitive areas. (SD1)
Status: Not heard by Senate committees on Commerce and Consumer Protection, Ways and Means
SB801, RELATING TO THE HEALTH IMPACT OF PESTICIDES
Establishes notice, reporting, and use requirements for any entity or person that uses pesticides under certain circumstances. (SD1)
Status: Not heard by Senate Committee on Ways and Means
SB1037, RELATING TO THE HEALTH IMPACT OF PESTICIDES
Requires the Department of Agriculture to establish a mandatory disclosure program for pesticide use by all persons or entities under certain circumstances. Increases the pesticide use revolving fund balance ceiling to $500,000. Effective July 1, 2050. (SD2)
Status: Not heard by House Committee on Agriculture
Editor's note: Ira Zunin has turned this Saturday's column over to his son Brandon Zunin. Brandon, a senior at Punahou School, is editor of Punahou's student newspaper, Ka Punahou.