Kauai pesticide measure passes council committee

Published: Sep. 28, 2013 at 4:53 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 29, 2013 at 8:45 AM HST
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LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A controversial measure that would require industrial farmers on Kauai to disclose the chemicals in the pesticides they are using was approved by a county council committee after a marathon 12-hour hearing.

The council's Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Sustainability approved Bill 2491 in a 4-1 vote late Friday night. Council member Mel Rapozo cast the lone dissenting vote.

Debate over the measure has included rallies by supporters and opponents. Earlier this month, a Mana March in Lihue drew thousands of supporters for the bill.

Those supporters said it wasn't just the public rallies that influenced the vote.

"Obviously a lot of the council members have done a lot of research, a lot of talking to community members and doctors and scientists," said supporter Andrea Brower.

Gary Hooser is the committee chairman and one of Bill 2491's sponsors. He also agreed that it was more than the big public turnout in support of the measure.

"We've had lots of passionate testimony as well as a lot of expert testimony," said Hooser. "We've had doctors that serve in hospitals, pediatricians, obstetricians, oncologists, testify about their serious concerns about the impacts of this industry."

Some provisions of the measure were strengthened. For example, the original bill required industrial farms to submit an annual report on the chemicals they use.

"The new amendment requires weekly reports, requires a lot more detail in terms of locations and quantities, which way the wind's blowing, so people know whether those chemicals are likely to go into their neighborhoods," said Hooser.

But supporters didn't get everything they wanted, either.

"There was an important provision requiring a moratorium on the future growth of the industry. That was taken out. There was a prohibition on open-air testing. That was taken out," said Hooser.

One of the companies that would be affected by the bill, DuPont Pioneer, issued a statement expressing its disappointment.

"We believe that the revised ordinance has significant legal deficiencies and serious implications for our operations on Kauai," the statement read. " For example, it targets a few westside companies while overlooking a vast number of other businesses across the island that use the same products for pest management every day."

The statement continued: "We believe it to be bad policy -- and the kind of regulation that should remain at the state and federal level, where policy makers and agencies are already empowered with oversight of our industry."

Supporters said Bill 2491 is just a start.

"The public support for this bill, as well as just  for dealing with concerns around this industry more generally, is really only growing," said Brower. "And so this bill right now is just being seen as a first step."

The measure now goes before the full seven-member council, which could hold a hearing and vote as soon as next week.  Hooser said the council members will have a chance to amend the bill further before taking a final vote.

Previous story: Thousands march, rally against GMO's on Kauai

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