Earth News Journal 28: Limiting Pesticides in Hawaii

Towards the end of October 2013, disputes amid the Kauai, Hawaii community and legislative officials erupted over a bill that would limit pesticide use across the luscious island region, according to articles from Reuters and The New York Times.

Over the last several years, Hawaii has become a hotspot for genetically modified seeds, bearing crops, such as corn, in fields once abundant with sugarcane and pineapples.

Residents of Kauai were becoming concerned with the presence of pesticides used widely on these biotechnology crops, claiming that the exposure to dust and dangerous chemicals were linked to mounting health concerns, including cases of cancer. International uprising against pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food has triggered claims of environmental damages and health concerns that could result for both people and animals, as long as biotech crops continue to be produced.

DuPont, Syngenta AG, and Dow AgroSciences are the three leading firms that reign over the genetically-altered crops on Hawaii’s fertile landscape. These companies argue that biotech crops are “essential in boosting global food production and in improving environmental sustainability.”

Angered by the presence of pesticides, the County Council passed a bill (6-1) on October 16 that would “require biotechnology companies to disclose what pesticides they use,” as well as establishing “no-spray zones around schools, residences, medical facilities, roads, and waterways.”

Near the end of October, the mayor of Kauai County, Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., vetoed this “hotly contested” bill, believing that the proposed legislation was legally flawed. “Kauai does not currently have the legal authority to enact most of what [the bill] contained,” claimed Mayor Carvalho.

Nonetheless, the Kauai County Council voted to override their major’s veto, achieving a 5-2 victory the following month. As a result, agricultural companies “will be unable to plant crops inside buffer zones,” while “new limits will be placed on pesticide use and companies must disclose where they will plant test crops.”

According to Paul Tower, California-based Pesticide Action Network North America media director, “The victory not only creates critical new laws but also serves as a signal to other communities across the United States that they can prevail over powerful corporations.”

The mayor responded with cordial assent. “We will honor the council’s decision, and I will continue to work with my departments to determine how we will implement this new law.” The legislation is set to take effect in nine months time.

Reflection

I am greatly impressed by the people of Kauai’s County Council for rising up against adversity and overriding the mayor’s decision to veto the limit of pesticide use. It takes an incredible force of willpower and determination to achieve the desirable in the realm of law, especially concerning the environment – it’s a feat not easily conquered. I am inspired by this act of defiance, and I commend the people for allowing their voice to be heard. Like the Hawaiian people, I do not necessarily agree with the use of pesticides and genetically-modified crops, in terms of total dependence. While pesticides may preserve the crops from withering and drought conditions, and GMOs protect against invasive species and pests, they are not a cure-all. As we learned in class, GMOs and pesticides come with a variety of advantages and disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages include: a decrease in genetic diversity and an increasing tolerance toward unhealthy, toxic chemicals. It seems to me that pesticides and GMOs are becoming a standard practice in the agricultural field – but why should that trend always continue to climb? Just because we’re accustomed to such third-party dependence now doesn’t mean that we are bound to continue this dependence. I would like to see more research into developing environmentally-derived practices for sustaining agriculture that would allow us as humans to connect with the Earth, instead of battling with her using laboratory-grown methods. 

Pollack, Andrew. “Bill Limiting Pesticide Use on Hawaii Island Is Vetoed.” The New York Times. N.p., 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 3 Jan. 2014.

D’Angelo, Christopher. “Veto Override Will Limit Pesticide Use, GMO Crops on Hawaiian Island.” Thomson Reuters. N.p., 17 Nov. 2013. Web. 3 Jan. 2014

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