Both sides prepare for legal battle over Kauai pesticide ordinance

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As expected, three agribusiness companies have filed a lawsuit to block Kauai County's new law that would require them to disclose the presence and use of pesticides and genetically-modified crops.

Agrigenetics, DuPont-Pioneer and Syngenta filed the complaint in Federal Court.

"We expected it," said Paul Achitoff, an attorney for Earthjustice. "The industry said they were going to sue. They really tried to intimidate the county council in the first place by threatening to sue, so I fully expected, once it passe,d that they would sue."

The controversial measure was vetoed by Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who said he supported the bill, but didn't think it would hold up in court. The county council overrode the veto in November.

Paul Minehart, a spokesperson for Syngenta, said in a statement:

"The ordinance is invalid. It arbitrarily targets our industry with burdensome and baseless restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties in Hawaii have no jurisdiction. These activities are already regulated by governmental agencies under state and federal laws."

Achitoff disagrees.

"The county clearly has the express authority, and really the obligation, to protect the health of its citizens, and that's exactly what it's doing. It's doing its job," he said.

The complaint also says that the ordinance takes and damages the companies' property by forbidding them from planting crops in "arbitrary buffer zones." It also alleges that the measure was adopted by a supermajority of the county council that included a member selected "in a manner that violated Hawaii's open meetings law."

Council member Mason Chock voted to override the video a day after he was selected to fill a vacancy on the council created when Nadine Nakamura was appointed as the county's managing director.

Attorneys are now preparing to defend the ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect in August.

"We will represent those that want to go to the court that want to intervene to defend the ordinance on behalf of the county," said Achitoff. "We plan to do that, and we will be doing that."

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