Federal Court Ruling Places Responsibility on State to Protect Communities from Pesticides
As you know, the world’s largest chemical corporations are using the Hawaiian Islands for open air testing of pesticides tied to experimental genetically engineered seeds.
Yesterday, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued rulings in the lawsuits against three of our Hawai‘i counties by these pesticide companies. The Court invalidated county ordinances in Kaua‘i, Maui, and Hawai‘i counties that sought to enforce public health protections (such as buffer zones, pesticide use disclosure and environmental impact studies).
On Kaua‘i, thousands of residents marched and testified in 2013 in support of Ordinance 960 (Bill 2491), which was made law after the Kaua‘i County Council overturned Mayor Bernard Carvalho's veto of the Bill. On Maui, citizens passed “the Maui Miracle,” a ballot initiative that placed a moratorium on open air GE experimental crops until a full environmental impact assessment is completed. And Hawai‘i Island generally banned growing genetically-engineered crops (with a few exceptions).
Where do we go from here?
The health and environmental concerns of the community members have not gone away. We tried at the county level to protect our communities. Now, the courts have clarified that this responsibility is on the State.
We fully expect that all of the energy that went into passing these laws on the neighbor islands will now be united and directed to the State. People aren't going to stop until our islands and the people are protected.
We must demand immediate action from the governor to implement basic protections recommended by the group of experts in the state-funded Kaua‘i Joint Fact Finding Group report. This panel recommended:
- Create and enforce statewide pesticide Buffer Zones
- Statewide mandatory and thorough disclosure of pesticide use (both restricted use and general use)
- Collect more accurate health data that helps scientists identify links between pesticides and health impacts on children, babies and families
- Air, soil and water testing
Call the Governor at (808) 586-0034 or email the Governor today! Tell his office that you want State action NOW to implement the basic protections recommended by the State's own JFFG report.
We need to celebrate the wins we’ve had
Let’s remember that our struggles have made a difference:
- There is far more public disclosure of pesticide use by the chemical industry today than there was 3 years ago. While the status quo is still woefully inadequate, the community today has far more access to disclosure information.
- The State-funded Kaua‘i Joint Fact Finding Group reinforced the common sense protections such as buffer zones, pesticide use disclosure and environmental and health testing.
- The State Legislature has appropriated $500,000 to support the implementation of the Joint Fact Finding Group recommendations.
- On Kaua‘i, the chemical companies no longer plant their pesticide intensive GE experimental test fields directly next to schools, hospitals, homes and other sensitive areas.
- Syngenta is presently under federal investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect its field workers who were hospitalized for exposure to chlorpyrifos.
These gains are important. But we must stay committed and take the long view. Most social movements and work for justice are long-term struggles. The only way they win is if we give up.
Autumn Ness, community organizer and co-founder of Maui United, said “Only government can regulate and enforce pesticide protection laws, and only the people can make government do that. We are encouraging people across the islands to contact their State representatives and the Governor to demand the immediate implementation of the basic protections recommended by the State-funded JFFG report.”