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Hawaii’s GMO Battle: Federal Judge Strikes Down Kauai’s Pesticide Regulations

Hawaii’s GMO Battle: Federal Judge Strikes Down Kauai’s Pesticide Regulations

Written by Mark Ludwig

A federal judge in Hawaii has struck down a local ordinance that would have regulated pesticide use at farms on the island of Kauai, where four of the world’s largest agrichemical companies take advantage of long growing seasons to develop genetically engineered crops seeds, also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

On August 23, US Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled in favor of Syngenta, BASF, DuPont Pioneer and Agrigenetics, an affiliate of Dow Chemical in their challenge of Kauai County’s Ordinance 960, arguing that the local ordinance illegally pre-empted state laws regulating pesticides.

“This decision in no way diminishes the health and environmental concerns of the people of Kauai,” Kurren wrote in the order overturning the ordinance. “The court’s ruling simply recognizes that the state of Hawaii has established a comprehensive framework for addressing the application of restricted-use pesticides and the planting of GMO crops, which presently precludes local regulation by the county.”

The Kauai County Council passed Ordinance 960 in November 2013 after months of protests and divisive public debate that put the tight-knit island at the center of the global controversy over pesticides and GMOs.

The ordinance is one of the first grassroots attempts to regulate some of the world’s largest GMO seed producers at the local level.

Residents of Waimea, a working-class community nestled between facilities operated by the four companies, are worried that pesticide drift from the GMO seed plots is poisoning local waterways and exposing their children to toxic chemicals linked to cognitive disorders and birth defects. Other activists on Kauai fought to pass Ordinance 960 because they oppose GMO agriculture in general.

The ordinance established buffer zones between GMO seed farms where pesticides are sprayed and sensitive areas like schools and hospitals. It also required the companies to notify nearby residents about pesticide applications while researchers study the impacts of the chemicals on the environment.

Although the ordinance was originally scheduled to take effect earlier this month, the court pushed that date back to October. Now it is unlikely that the ordinance will take effect in October, unless the defense quickly wins an appeal.

The four agrichemical companies on Kauai have reported using a combined 18 tons of “restricted-use” pesticides annually. Under federal law, only technicians with special training can apply restricted-use pesticides because they may pose threats to the environment or human health.

recent investigation by the Cascadia Times found that, on average, the GMO seed companies on Kauai annually apply more restricted-use pesticides — such as chlorpyrifos — per acre than farms in most states in the mainland. The amount of restricted-use pesticides applied on Kauai is 10 times greater than the national average.

Researchers have linked some of these chemicals to health problems, especially in children. Two of the pesticides, paraquat and atrazine, are banned in the European Union but remain popular in the United States.

The agrichemical firms rigorously opposed Ordinance 960 and rallied their workers in protest as the county council considered the legislation. After the council passed Ordinance 960, the companies quickly filed a legal challenge while aggressively lobbying state lawmakers for support.

The companies claim that the GMO crop seed facilities on Kauai are an economic boon for the island and are already subject to adequate state pesticide regulations. Ordinance 960, they told the court, interfered with the existing regulatory system and put an undue burden on their operations.

Attorneys for Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety helped Kauai County defend the ordinance in court. “This battle to protect Kauai and its residents from the effects of toxic pesticides is only just the beginning,” Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said in a statement. “We do not accept that people must put up with toxic chemicals being sprayed near their homes and schools and will keep fighting for their right to protect themselves.”

Ordinance 960 proponents point out that Judge Kurren also ruled that the ordinance is not pre-empted by federal law, leaving room for advocates to make legislative pushes at the state level and continue fighting in federal appeals court.

“This issue is not going away. Wherever the battle is, the people will be there,” said Gary Hooser, a Kauai county council member and architect of Ordinance 960.  ”If it’s at the state legislature, we will be there. If it’s in a court of appeal, we will be there. The people of Hawaii have learned too much to go backwards.”

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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113 comments

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10:52PM PDT on Sep 22, 2014

I can tell by the pic, crop stage and nozzle pattern that he is spraying a fungicide.

12:08AM PDT on Sep 21, 2014

If you ever did the stats roundup is much safer to handle and apply than any of the conventional herbicides in a Non GMO crop.

12:03AM PDT on Sep 21, 2014

GMO's are most likely here for good, I don't work with or for monsanto. No farmer is about to go to go back to farming the way they did in the early 1980's. yields are 30% higher now with GMO than they were then. and the hazards to the herbicide applicators then was high. 90 million acres of corn is GMO by the farmers choice and the same goes for 92% of the soybean acres planted. The farmer picks by variety, whichever gives the best yield, quality, disease resistance. If you ever saw a conventional soybean field sprayed to kill weeds it is ugly, has only 70% weed control and farmers get discounted if there is weed seeds in soybeans when hauled in because then they have to remove the weed seeds. pigweed seed is toxic if it gets in food. Have you not looked at the 2014 bee survey? Honey production is up and bee numbers are up as well with heightened work to limit mite populations within colonies. neonicotinoids have not been an issue with the colonies. We have all been eating GMO since 1987. We are looking at an excessive honey supply this year, so honey prices have gone down. Oh, I see lots of bumble bee's here. Just for your thought, 780 acres of the 1800 on this farm is Non GMO which is wheat while the remaining is GMO by choice due to higher yield, much better soil adaptability, disease resistance which a NON GMO crop does not offer. The few Non GMO soybeans remaining were released in the late 90's and there has

2:24AM PDT on Sep 20, 2014

Oh and by the way Kyle, you are going to have a hard time in the future spreading your Monsanto propaganda, since study after study keeps confirming neonicotinoids are killing the bees, in fact 98 pesticides up to 214 ppm were found in recent survey of bee pollen. You should be arrested and made to eat your poison, which you keep spreading in our environment and lying about and trying to convince Care2 and others they are harmless. Don't even try that ludicrous claim of "bee populations are rising" when more than half the bees have disappeared. France has banned neonicotinoids on sunflower and maize since 2004, and productivity was NOT baffected – 2007 and later were France’s best years for yield of these crops for over a decade. IN EUROPE BEE POPULATIONS REBOUNDED AND WERE RESTORED AFTER BANNING NEONICOTINOIDS - so European governments (Germany, Italy, France etc) have of course decided to uphold the ban. The US corporate criminals will be the last holdouts to ban it, but I will be right there helping to destroy the livelihood of the GMO welfare handout farmers and corporate destroyers and to send them to their homelessness.

1:58AM PDT on Sep 20, 2014

No it's Good luck" you're wishing for yourself, Kyle N.. since that's all you hope you've got.. Your propaganda isn't working. There are some people who are always evil, like you and your Monsanto gang. I already already gave you the facts from a wide section of people other than industry shills like yourself that GMO and its toxins is a deadly poison, a destroyer of the environment and of human health and of the future of the earth.. But I also exposed you as an industry shill who has poisoned generations and would poison your own children for a buck. What Kyle the poisoner and environment destroyer should do next, is go to Russia and sell his toxic GMO poison there. Don't forget to have the scene videotaped of you being in thrown in prison for life, it's a felony there. And good luck with that propaganda in other parts of the world, there's revolution going on, that your kind hasn't been able to stop. You feel you're protected by corrupt Congressmen in North America? Think again. I hope you go bankrupt and homeless, since by your criminal actions you are threat to anything like civilized and decent society.

11:14PM PDT on Sep 19, 2014

Mark, good luck. I do the research with all these things, so i know the facts. I already know you don't have any of the facts. You Only go by what greenpeace wacko's tell you. I bet you didn't know I have neighbors that have bee's. GMO has done more good than the trivial amount of harm if any it has done and so far there has been no damage from GMO. There was more damage done when dealing with NON GMO crops. Farmers tookin GMO with open arms because it is safer and more user friendly than any Non GMO equivilant. Higher yields, no damage to crop from weed control as well as safer to handle roundup. roundup breaks down in 48 hours in soil.

10:32PM PDT on Sep 19, 2014

Mark D. Facts are facts.. I just gave them to you, but you try to slither out of it by denying what is happening to the pollinators that you destroyed. Yes, you are complicity in those crimes, no matter how cleverly you try to twist reality to continue your own criminal profits at the expense of others. I could have predicted your answer.. since the typical response from a criminal is to justify his actions. Very rarely do criminals admit to crimes as horrendous as GMO and the associated pesticides which are literally killing the future of the planet. You would be overwhelmed by the evil of your own actions. GMO and the wiping out of the future of life is a crime far worse than genocide. And the farmers who contributing to the evil of the Agribusiness terrorists are complicit. It will take a massive amount of penance, probably your whole life, to make up for what you have done.

2:01AM PDT on Sep 19, 2014

Mark, I can tell that you have no clue about anything ag related. You would epically fail at any attempt at farming. due to the introduction of the soybean aphid that came from china in the late 90's the use of insecticides has been required to control the aphids about every other year where I'm at, farther south it has been needed every year or there would be no crop. I have seen how rapidly aphid populations can explode, You also know nothing of truth when it comes to bees and don't follow any facts about crops or bee's. Even though most soybeans are treated with insecticide on seed and often sprayed in june, july for aphids this year, the bee population has risen significantly and honey production is way up and causing a decline in honey prices. No report on bee's mention harm from insecticides, their ONLY concern is with the mite population within hives. There has only been one issue in 10 years in the entire state of MN, ND dealing with bee hive death due to insecticides, it's because a spray pilot didn't know about the hive location. Overall, insecticides do not play any role in CCD. (proven by true university scientists)

7:59PM PDT on Sep 18, 2014

Kyle claims "pesticides are the same as vitamins for humans and bees"

********************
Although corn and soybean production does not require insect pollinators, that is not the case for most plants that provide food. Krupke said protecting bees benefits agriculture since most fruit, nut and vegetable crop plants depend upon honeybees for pollination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the value of honeybees to commercial agriculture at $15 billion to $20 billion annually. For bees that do not die from the insecticide there are other effects, such as loss of homing ability and less resistance to disease or mites.

7:57PM PDT on Sep 18, 2014

Kyle's claims "pesticides have no effect"

*******************************
Krupke said the corn pollen that bees were bringing back to hives later in the year tested positive for neonicotinoids at levels roughly below 100 parts per billion.

"That's enough to kill bees if sufficient amounts are consumed, but it is not acutely toxic," he said.

On the other hand, the exhausted talc showed extremely high levels of the insecticides - up to about 700,000 times the lethal contact dose for a bee.

"Whatever was on the seed was being exhausted into the environment," Krupke said. "This material is so concentrated that even small amounts landing on flowering plants around a field can kill foragers or be transported to the hive in contaminated pollen. This might be why we found these insecticides in pollen that the bees had collected and brought back to their hives."

Krupke suggested that efforts could be made to limit or eliminate talc emissions during planting.

"That's the first target for corrective action," he said. "It stands out as being an enormous source of potential environmental contamination, not just for honeybees, but for any insects living in or near these fields. The fact that these compounds can persist for months or years means that plants growing in these soils can take up these compounds in leaf tissue or pollen."

Although corn and soybean production does not require insect pollinators, that is not the case for most plants that provide food. Krupke

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