Supporters of stricter pesticide controls rally at the State Capitol

Updated: Apr. 9, 2018 at 6:24 PM HST
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Supporters of stricter pesticide controls rallied at the State Capitol Monday hoping to keep momentum going behind tough new regulations.

The latest version of Senate Bill 3905, which was amended by the House, would require agriculture entities to report when they use restricted use pesticides to the Department of Agriculture and prohibit the spraying of these chemicals within 100 feet of any school during school hours.

"I look at this as an opportunity to protect the children in our schools from any kind of pesticide exposure and chemical drift," said Maui County Councilman Alika Atay, who attended the rally.

The bill also bans the use of the controversial insecticide Chlorpyrifos, unless a temporary permit is obtained from the DOA.

"I'd like to see Hawaii be the first state in the nation to step forward and ban this chemical and make a real step forward in protecting our children," said Fern Holland, co-director of Ohana O Kauai.

While supporters say the bill is long overdue, some were hoping for even stricter controls, such as a 500-foot buffer zone around schools and a requirement that companies must give neighborhoods a heads up before applying pesticides.

"Just so that people know when to shut their windows or when to remove themselves from the situation that could potentially be dangerous. Even with buffer zones, our winds are strong and these things move through the environment. So I was disappointed that it was reduced to 100 feet," said Holland.

But critics say these requirements are unjustified and they worry it will put more local farmers out of business.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau says pesticides are already strictly regulated -- and if the purpose of the bill is to protect children -- it says efforts should be focused on pesticide use within schools and homes where misuse is more likely to happen.

Seed company Monsanto says it already voluntarily reports when its teams use restricted use pesticides, and that the state can review their records and inventory at any time.

The latest version of the bill passed the House unanimously on Friday and now heads back to the Senate.

It's unclear what the Senate will do with the bill, but senators who support the House proposal are hoping to have the 13 votes needed to pass the bill and avoid negotiations.

"The House has put itself on record in saying that this is a priority that needs to move forward. I'm confident we'll be in discussions with the Senate and hopefully have something meaningful come out at the end of the year," said State Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

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