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Kauai Council overrides mayor's veto of anti-pesticide, GMO bill

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 1:28 a.m. HST, Nov 17, 2013

The Kauai County Council voted 5-2 Saturday to override Mayor Bernard Carvalho's veto of a controversial bill that would require large farms to disclose pesticide use and growth of genetically modified crops.

The bill now becomes law and will take effect in nine months.

Lawsuits are expected to be filed by biotech companies to challenge the new law.

Attorney Paul Alston, who represents agribusiness Syngeta, said, "There will definitely be a lawsuit." 

He called the process the Council followed to override the mayor's veto "deeply troubling and suspect."

Councilmen Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa voted no. The newest member of the council, Mason Chock, voted yes, along with Council Chairman Jay Furfaro, and Councilmembers Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum and JoAnn Yuki-mura.

Chock was just appointed Friday to replace former Vice Chairwoman Nadine Nakamura, who resigned Oct. 31 to serve as the county's managing director.

In a statement after the vote, Carvalho said, "Of course we will honor the Council's decision and I will continue to work with my departments to determine how we will implement this new law, which is scheduled to take effect in nine months."

Bill 2491 would require mandatory disclosure of pesticides they use to spray on their fields and genetically modified crops by large agribusinesses. Affected companies are Syngeta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF as well as Kauai Coffee, the largest coffee grower in the state.

Advocates said the measure is needed to protect public health and the island's environment. Opponents of Bill 2491 contend it's legally flawed and puts the county at risk with legal challenges.

The Council voted 6-1 in October to approve the bill. Carvalho vetoed it citing legal concerns. The mayor said the state and federal government preempts the county from enacting laws on pesticide use and GMOs.

Hooser and Bynum co-introduced the bill because of inaction from the state to address concerns of pesticide exposure.

On Wednesday, state officials announced they had completed guidelines for a voluntary compliance program for agribusinesses on Kauai. Guidelines in the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program include voluntary compliance of pesticide use and buffer zones but the guidelines are not as stringent as the provisions in Bill 2491.

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