If perhaps the tides are beginning to turn for communities suffering public health impacts from dangerous pesticides, Hawaiʻi is the fringe on the wave of change.

9th Circuit Court Orders EPA to Ban Chlorpyrifos within 60 days

After passing unanimously in the Hawaiʻi state legislature, Governor Ige signed the first in the nation ban on chlorpyrifos into law on June 13th.  

On the heels of Hawaiʻiʻs ban, just yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA must finalize its own proposed ban on chlorpyrifos based on undisputed findings that the pesticide is unsafe for public health, particularly children and farmworkers.

According to the Earthjustice press release: “The court ruling details EPA’s long, illegal delay in acting to ban chlorpyrifos, even after the science clearly showed the harm and risks to children’s health.”

Check out the full press release from Earthjustice, and recent coverage in the New York Times. 

Monsanto Ordered to Pay $289 Million in Roundup Cancer Trial

Then today, just one day after the 9th Circuit ruling, a California court ruled Monsanto liable in a lawsuit filed by a school groundskeeper who said the company’s weedkillers, including Roundup, caused his cancer.

Brent Wisner, a lawyer for Mr. Johnson, said in a statement that jurors had seen for the first time internal company documents “proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer.”

Read the New York Times coverage here.

What’s the Common Denominator? Failure of Regulators to Protect Us.

What do both of these cases have in common? Both demonstrate the utter failure of the EPA’s regulatory framework to protect us. Both cases raise the question, how did these dangerous pesticides ever get approved to go to market in the first place?

Just last week, HawaiiSEED brought Dr. Jonathan Latham from the Bioscience Resource Project to Hawaiʻi to explore this very question. He discussed the findings of regulatory collusion, which are documented at length in the Poison Papers.

According the Poison Papers website,“The ‘Poison Papers’ represent a vast trove of rediscovered chemical industry and regulatory agency documents and correspondence stretching back to the 1920s. Taken as a whole, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press.”

“Corporate concealment is not a new story. What is novel in the Poison Papers is abundant evidence that EPA and other regulators were, often, knowing participants or even primary instigators of these cover-ups. These regulators failed to inform the public of the hazards of dioxins and other chemicals; of evidence of fraudulent independent testing; even of one instance of widespread human exposure. The papers thus reveal, in the often-incriminating words of the participants themselves, an elaborate universe of deception and deceit surrounding many pesticides and synthetic chemicals.”

The Poison Papers are a project of the The Bioscience Resource Project and Center for Media and Democracy.

What Can You Do?

Hawaiʻi’s chlorpyrifos ban and the court rulings this week remind us that communities can fight back and win.

But we cannot take our foot off the pedal.

We need to continue to work all avenues to reverse the status quo of corporate control over our food systems and regulators. We need to rally in the streets, to grow our own food, to support local farmers, to testify in county council chambers, at the state legislature, to support the public interest law firms that hold the agrochemical industry and regulators accountable, and more…

But tomorrow Hawaiʻi, WE NEED TO VOTE. Imagine what could be possible if we had the political will to prioritize the protection of our communities over corporate profit. Vote your values.