Pesticide oversight, buffer zone bills advance out of committee

Pesticide bills advance
Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 at 9:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee has approved two measures that provide more oversight over pesticide use by Hawaii's seed industry.

One bill calls for an expanded oversight committee that would establish statewide standards for long-term, low-level exposure to pesticides, as well as creating policies for buffer zones from spraying.

"It's important to continue this conversation. As you can see, so many people testified," state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who chairs the committee, on Monday. "There was a lot of community interest in this bill."

A second bill would provide $3 million in funding to implement the recommendations suggested by a May 2016 report on pesticide use on Kauai.

The report, by a fact-fidning group made up of both industry and GMO critics, found elevated levels of ADHD, diabetes and renal disease for residents in West Kauai, which is home to several seed companies.

"West side residents suffer from numerous health conditions than residents living anywhere else on Kauai," said former state lawmaker Gary Hooser.

Added Waimea resident Clayton Kubo: "There is no good poison. There is no good poison."

While the report does not say pesticides are the cause of the health problems, it does recommend buffer zones around homes, schools and hospitals, as well as statewide standards for long-term low-level exposure.

Senate Bill 779 empowers the state pesticide advisory committee to establish the policies for these buffer zones, and standards for chronic exposure.

Industry officials, however, say the state Department of Agriculture should take charge.

"Simply stated, that's where the purview is, and we fully support the DOA because they have the scientific and technical expertise to determine what is appropriate," said Bennette Misalucha, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.

The bills next go the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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