Friday, October 18, 2013

Kaua`i Council's GMO bill, a review.

The Kaua`i County Council this week passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation, regulating both pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Whether you support or oppose the bill, and whether it is rejected in court or not, it represents a significant legislative event. 

Its key features are an aggressive disclosure policy targeted at big farmers, significant buffer zones, and the call for a study of the environmental and health impacts of big ag—specifically big ag that uses both genetically modified crops and any kinds of pesticides. 

The bill has taken a circuitous route to the form that is now being considered for signature or veto by Mayor Bernard Carvalho. 

Here are key provisions of the document approved by an exhausted Kaua`i County Council, driven by a drumbeat of chants of “Pass The Bill!,” after 3 a.m. on October 15, 2013. 

1.      Any farm that uses more than 5 pounds or 15 gallons of a restricted use pesticide (the kind that require you be a certified pesticide applicator), must disclose the use of all pesticides of any kind during the following year. Warning signs must be posted at the site of pesticide use 24 hours ahead of time and during and after the application. Farms must also post all such pesticide notifications at a central area for workers.

2.      Farms must, before applying pesticides, personally notify neighbors within 1,500 feet of the farm’s property lines. That includes anyone who lives, works, keeps bees or who occupies the property, legally or otherwise. These “Good Neighbor Courtesy Notices” can be sent by phone, text or email. Such messages need to be sent weekly or more often as necessary.
3.      Similar messages are also required to be made available weekly to everyone else on the island, through reports to the county that will be posted online. The weekly after-use reports are to include what pesticide is being used including its trade name and EPA registration number, on what day, at what time, on what field, over what acreage, during what wind conditions. Maps of pesticide application locations are to be provided.

4.      Farmers must also provide an emergency hotline to provide to medical personnel details of pesticide use when there is a documented medical need.

5.      Farms that grow genetically modified crops must file annual reports with the county and state, and those reports are to be posted for the public online. Annual reports are to describe the genetically modified crop being grown, where it is grown and when it was first planted there.

6.      The farms that use 5 pounds or 15 gallons of restricted use pesticides must establish 500-foot no-grow zones around care homes, medical facilities, residential houses, and schools. There’s 250-foot buffer around parks, 100 feet along roads (unless signs are posted), and 100 feet along shorelines or streams

7.      A two-part environmental and public health impact study will be outlined by a fact-finding group within 12 months, which will then oversee the conducting of the study by a professional consultant, which has an 18-month deadline. The study is to look into impacts from big agriculture uses of both genetically modified crops and pesticides.

The 2.5-year total for the study may seem generous, but it took the United States from the 1940s, when scientists began expressing concern about DDT, until the 1970s, to ban DDT. Various neonicotinoid insecticides began being marketed in the 1980s and 1990s, but it took until this year, 2013, before significant numbers of studies prompted European restrictions on their use.
In each case, 30 years for a single pesticide or class of pesticides.

An optimistic Kaua`i County Council hopes that on Kaua`i, the problems of  pesticides as well as genetically modified organisms can be identified and regulations recommended—in 30 months.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2013

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