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Kauai Council in recess until Saturday without vote on veto override

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 15, 2013

LIHUE >> The Kauai County Council met for nearly nine hours Thursday without making a decision on whether or not to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s veto of a bill to regulate pesticides and genetically modified crops.

The council recessed until 11 a.m. Saturday after an emotionally charged meeting in which more than 200 people attended and the majority of people who testified pleaded for the Council to override the veto. 

Bill 2491 calls for mandatory disclosure of genetically modified crops and pesticide use and prohibits those crops near schools, dwellings, medical facilities, public roadways and waterways. Large agribusinesses would also be required to provide annual public reports on genetically modified crops to the county Office of Economic Development and state Department of Agriculture. 

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

The Council voted 6-1 to approve the measure on Oct. 16. Carvalho vetoed the bill on Oct. 31, saying he supported the intent but that he had legal concerns. In a letter to the Council, he said the state and federal government pre-empts the county from enacting laws on regulating pesticides and GMOs.

Bill supporters and some councilmembers who wanted disclosure by biotech companies to protect public health and the island's environment were disappointed by the mayor's decision. Representatives of biotech companies have said the mayor recognized the bill was legally flawed and puts the county at risk.

Carvalho has supported a voluntary compliance program created by the state.  

The state Department of Agriculture released details Wednesday afternoon of guidelines for the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program, which will take effect Dec. 1.

The guidelines are similar to the disclosure and buffer zone provisions in Bill 2491. Under the program, companies will provide a weekly schedule to schools, hospitals and medical clinics within 1,000 feet of the farming operations of any planned restricted use pesticide application. 

The guidelines also include a 100-foot buffer zone near schools, medical facilities and residential properties. Participating companies will also file a monthly report to the state on restricted-use pesticides sprayed on their fields. 

State agricultural officials plan to assess the program after a year.

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