April 29, 2015
UPDATED May 11, 2015

Kaua`i Residents Attend Syngenta Shareholders Meeting in Basel, Switzerland; Petition for “the same respect and protections that are afforded to the residents of Switzerland”

(LIHUE) - A group of Kauaʻi residents gained access yesterday in Basel, Switzerland to the annual shareholders meeting of Syngenta, a Swiss producer of pesticides and genetically-engineered seeds that is conducting pesticide-intensive research operations on Kauaʻi.

During his speech at the meeting, HAPA President and Kauaʻi County Council Member Gary Hooser (fn1)presented a petition signed by over 4,000 Hawaiʻi residents and their supporters [UPDATE: The petition now has over 7,500 signatures] asking Syngenta to:

  1. Offer the residents of Hawaiʻi the same respect and protections that are afforded to the residents of Switzerland.
  2. Stop spraying Atrazine, Paraquat and 4 other pesticide "active ingredients" which are banned in Switzerland but are sprayed by Syngenta on a regular basis next to Kauaʻi schools, hospitals and homes.
  3. Honor Kauaʻi's laws by dropping their lawsuit to block implementation of Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 that would establish pesticide buffer zones around the places we live and go to school, and stop using the courts to hide information about what they spray and to what they expose Kauaʻi's people on a daily basis.

Link to petition: https://ujoin.org/campaigns/44/actions/public?action_id=48

HAPA President Gary Hooser addresses Syngenta shareholders at their annual Shareholder Meeting in Basel Switzerland.

HAPA President Gary Hooser addresses Syngenta shareholders at their annual Shareholder Meeting in Basel Switzerland.

During his speech, Mr. Hooser said, “Syngenta has not complied with our laws. Syngenta has chosen to take us to court. . . . I’m asking you with great respect to withdraw the lawsuit from the County of Kauaʻi, honor and comply with our laws. Treat us with the same respect, the same dignity and the same protections that you give the people of Switzerland. Do not spray chemicals in my community that you cannot spray in your own community.”

A video of Mr. Hooser’s presentation was captured on film by fellow Kauaʻi resident Fern Anuenue Rosenstiel, until she was forcibly removed by security guards. Security attempted to take away Ms. Rosenstiel’s camera, which was caught on film by international camera crews.

You can watch the videos of Mr. Hooser’s presentation here.

There were also protests outside the shareholders meeting by Swiss and international watchdog organizations who joined the Kauaʻi residents in holding banners and wearing Hazmat suits.

Swiss activists join Kaua`i residents outside the Syngenta Shareholders Meeting in Basel, Switzerland.

Swiss activists join Kaua`i residents outside the Syngenta Shareholders Meeting in Basel, Switzerland.

The actions also garnered national news attention in Switzerland (with English Subtitles).

The delegation from Kauaʻi includes Hawaiian cultural educator Mālia Kahale‘inia Chun and environmental scientist and co-director of Ohana O Kauaʻi Fern Rosenstiel, as well as Mr. Hooser. (fn2)

The Kauaʻi delegation also met with local and national Swiss lawmakers, which resulted in the Social Democratic Party, the largest political party in Basel, issuing a Statement of Support, asking Syngenta to “honor the democratic process and protect the people of Kauaʻi.” These meetings also resulted in several articles in Swiss newspapers covering Syngenta’s activities in Hawaiʻi and the Kauaʻi residents’ concerns.

Chun, Rosenstiel and Hooser made several presentations to a European alliance of environmental organizations, trade unions and political parties tracking the activities and impacts of Swiss transnational corporations around the world during a conference held April 24th & 25th.

The purpose of the Kauaʻi delegation’s travels was to educate this international audience on the cultural and historical context of Syngenta’s operations on Kauaʻi, the impacts of the industry’s activities, and the political and social efforts of the community to gain environmental and public health protections (i.e. through Kaua‘i Bill 2491 and state bills such as HB1514).

The delegation heads home this week. "This was an excellent opportunity to bring the cultural, health and environmental impacts that these chemical corporations have in Hawaiʻi to the international forefront," said Mālia Chun of Kekaha on west Kauaʻi.

Syngenta conducts heavy applications of Restricted Use Pesticides on Kaua‘i and sells RUPs containing atrazine and paraquat for use around Hawai‘i -- pesticides which are banned in their home country of Switzerland. In addition, Syngenta has extensive acreage of open-air genetically-modified test crops on Kauaʻi, while cultivation of GMOs is banned in Switzerland. (fn3)

“We came to share our story and to gain the support of members of government and the Swiss people, and we have done so. Political leaders have been appalled to hear our story, to know how hard we have fought, and to know that we even succeeded in passing government initiatives to obtain disclosure, buffers and studies – only to be sued by Syngenta,” said Fern Rosenstiel. “It has been an honor and an amazing experience engaging the people here, sharing our story, learning about theirs and gaining more inspiration about how we move forward as a collective
worldwide community to better the health and life of our environment and world.”

The Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) supported the trip to Switzerland at the invitation of Swiss non-profit “MultiWatch.”

Footnotes:
(1) Hooser spoke as an individual relating his individual experiences, thoughts and concerns and not in his official capacity.

(2) Each individual is representing their own personal view points as Kauaʻi residents and not be representing any official position of their employers.

(3) http://www.gmo-free-regions.org/gmo-free-regions/switzerland.html

###

Contact: Elif Beall, Communications Director
email: action@HAPAhi.org
www.HAPAhi.org

The Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) is a public non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. HAPA’s mission is to catalyze community empowerment and systemic change towards valuing ʻaina (environment) and people ahead of corporate profit.

Comment