Panel recommends buffer zones and disclosure
Residents of Kaua`i who are concerned about the public health and environmental impacts of agrochemical research operations have been encouraged by the release of the government study commissioned by the state and Kaua`i county, called the “Joint Fact Finding Group” (JFFG). The study recommends basic pesticide protections such as buffer zones and disclosure of data to secure further study.
Opponents of regulation (mostly the agrochemical companies themselves and their trade groups), are both attacking the report and using it to support a position that since no data was available, “no harm has been found.”
Some facts about the JFFG and its report:
- The industry supported this study and had participants on the JFFG panel.
- Those most critical of the JFFG's conclusions were the Panel's biggest supporters at the beginning. This is what Scott Enright had to say in a Press Release when the JFFG was announced:
“This is an important effort that could be used in other counties to address both the controversial and divisive issues surrounding pesticides and the cultivation of genetically modified crops, as well as other science-intensive political questions,” stated Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “Peter [Adler, head of the project] brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in fact finding and mediation and has assembled an impressive team to assist him with the process. In addition, the state truly appreciates the support and cooperation of Mayor Bernard Carvalho and the Kauai legislative delegation in this effort to bring more clarity to these very complex issues,” added Enright.
Kaua`i Mayor Bernard Carvalho (who vetoed Bill 2491 which would have created buffer zones and disclosure requirements) was also very supportive of the JFFG: "It's all about talking story, getting the right information and then holding everybody accountable and that's the way to get things done,” said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho. "We are going to set an example, I believe, in how we manage ourselves on critical issues that affect our people and then go from there.” In fact, the JFFG was originally introduced by the Mayor's Managing Director, Nadine Nakamura, when she was on the County Council. (She and Joann Yukimura co-introduced Resolution 2013-72).
Rob Stephenson, the head of the Moloka'i Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the Maui GMO moratorium, was also very much in support of the JFFG: "This is great news. I mean this is the way things are supposed to proceed before we enact any kind of legislation, particularly like the Maui County ballot initiative," Stephenson said.
What changed? The report did not say what they wanted it to say.
- The report points to clear gaps in the regulatory framework and missing data which prevented the JFFG from making certain connections, such as about health impacts.
- While there is important information throughout the report, the recommendations to the Governor, Departments of Health and Agriculture, the Mayor of Kaua`i and other governmental bodies are found on page 93.
These recommendations (which were made by consensus of the group) include:
* Create and enforce pesticide Buffer Zones
* Mandatory and thorough disclosure of pesticide use (both restricted use and general use)
* Collect more accurate Kaua'i health data that helps scientists identify links between pesticides and health impacts of Kaua'i children, babies and families
* Air, soil and water testing
The report also contains a 2-page analysis by a former EPA scientist who debunks the position that stinkweed, not pesticides, caused episode of illnesses and hospitalization of schoolchildren and teachers on Kaua`i. (See p. 147, Appendix 2)
In short, after carefully reviewing the situation for over a year, the JFFG has re-iterated community demands for basic pesticide protections, and disclosure of data to secure further meaningful study.
Though the industry supported this study and had representatives on the panel, they (and their communications network) are once again working to dismiss, disqualify, and distort it. This is not the work of “Good Neighbors.”
Also, Dir. of Department of Agriculture, Scott Enright’s very quick public negation of the recommendations is highly indicative of his department’s unwillingness to take meaningful action. The report had not even been out for one day, and he was already making excuses against doing anything -- except fund "more study." Yet, without relevant disclosure and data gathering, there is no worthwhile study.
What public health advocates are saying is that the JFFG report reveals clear gaps in the regulatory framework and available data. These gaps do not prove “no harm” as the industry and HCIA are trying to claim. These gaps point to the need for disclosure and meaningful data gathering. In sum, the JFFG report’s overarching conclusions are that there is a lack of crucial information and that robust action is needed by our state and local government.