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Kauai Council passes anti-GMO, pesticides bill after long hearing

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 3:19 p.m. HST, Oct 16, 2013

The Kauai County Council voted 6-1 to approve an amended bill that calls for mandatory disclosure of pesticides use and genetically modified crops by large agribusinesses on the island. 

Shortly after 3:30 a.m. today, the council approved Bill 2491 after a 14-hour discussion.

The bill requires disclosure of pesticides and GMOs by large agri-businesses. It also calls to implement buffer zones near schools, dwellings, medical facilities, public roadways and waterways. It takes effect in nine months.

The emotionally charged meeting reconvened Tuesday with the council chambers dominated by bill supporters who urged councilmembers to pass the bill, stating ample time has been given to vet the issue. Opponents backed Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.'s request for a two-month deferral to hold discussions with the state on enforcement of the bill's disclosure and buffer zone provisions.

"We have a major issue that is of a concern to this whole community," said Carvalho adding that he is working with state officials on the possibility to direct some of the responsbilities of the bill to the appropriate departments. "I'm not going to set ourselves up to fail," he said. 

Because of recent discussions with the Department of Agriculture concerning voluntary compliance by biotech companies, Carvalho sought a one-month deferral instead of a two-month deferral he initially requested in last week's council meeting.

Council Chairman Jay Furfaro said he's had conference calls with the Environmental Protection Agency and met with Agriculture Department Chairman Russell Kokubun. 

He praised the council's work on the bill since its introduction in June.

"For me, there's no logical reason to defer this bill anymore," said Furfaro. Bill supporters in the council chambers cheered and applauded after his statement.

He told the mayor he's confident he would do his best to work with the state to implement the bill's provisions but cast doubt on the state. 

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Council Vice Chairwoman Nadine Nakamura, who will leave her seat at the end of the month to serve as the county's new managing director, co-introduced significant amendments to the bill.

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