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Kauai mayor vetoes measure to limit pesticides, GMOs

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 3:34 a.m. HST, Nov 1, 2013

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. vetoed a bill Thursday that would require large agribusinesses to disclose the type of pesticides they spray on fields and implement buffer zones around schools, dwellings and medical facilities. 

Bill 2491 would have required agribusinesses that purchase or use more than five pounds or 15 gallons of restricted use pesticides annually to disclose all types of pesticides they spray on their fields and to implement buffer zones near schools, dwellings, medical facilities, public roadways, shorelines and waterways.

"I have always said I agree with the intent of this bill to provide for pesticide use disclosure, create meaningful buffer zones and conduct a study on the health and environmental issues relating to pesticide use on Kaua'i," Carvalho said in a news release. "However, I believe strongly that this bill is legally flawed. That being the case, I had no choice but to veto."

Under the bill, agricultural companies would have been required to provide annual reports of genetically modified crops grown on fields to the Office of Economic Development and state Department of Agriculture. The information would have been posted on the county website.

Agribusinesses also would have been required to disclose where the genetically modified crops were being grown and dates of when each crop was initially planted. 

Companies affected by the bill would have included Syngeta Hawaii, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and BASF as well as Kauai Coffee, the largest coffee grower in the state.

The Kauai County Council has 30 days from today to override the veto, but it was not immediately clear what action the council will take. "The decision of the council to override the veto has yet to be determined," Council Chairman Jay Furfaro said this afternoon.

The council voted 6-1 to approve Bill 2491 in the early-morning hours of Oct. 16 after a marathon public hearing. 

Before the council's vote, Carvalho requested a one-month deferral to hold discussions with the state on the enforcement of the bill's disclosure and buffer zones. Council Chairman Jay Furfaro said he would not support a deferral, saying there was no logical reason to do so.

The final draft of the bill sent to the mayor's office for approval focused on regulating pesticide use by agribusinesses. 

Councilmen Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum co-introduced the bill in June in response to ongoing community concerns of pesticide exposure. 

Biotech companies favor Hawaii's year-round warm climate, enabling them to grow three crops per year compared to one in Illinois. Company officials say they are already regulated by the state and federal level and the county lacks the resources to enforce the ordinance. Biotech representatives who testified at meetings also said the ordinance would signicantly hamper the farming industry.

Bill supporters say the ordinance is necessary to protect public health and the island's environment. 

Kauai Mayor transmittal letter Bill 2491.pdf

County Attorney Opinion.pdf

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