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Kauai residents sue over dust from seed company

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WAIMEA, Kauai >> A group of Kauai residents has sued a major seed company over the farming of genetically modified crops they claim has led to pesticide-laden dust being blown onto their homes for more than a decade. 

Attorneys for 150 Waimea residents filed the lawsuit Tuesday in 5th Circuit Court against Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. 

Pioneer is a subsidiary of Delaware-based chemical maker DuPont Co. Gay & Robinson Inc., which leases fields east of Waimea to Pioneer. Both were named in the lawsuit.

Pioneer uses dangerous pesticides during open air testing of genetically modified crops without controlling airborne pollutants as required by state and county law, the residents alleged. Trade winds blow across the test fields into Waimea, on the southwest coast of the island. 

The lawsuit claimed that “pesticides and fugitive dust from Pioneer’s GMO Test Fields are recognized pollutants that present known and unknown risks to human health and the environment associated with acute, sub-chronic, and chronic exposure.” 

The residents want to know what chemicals are being used. They contend Pioneer hasn’t investigated the degree of danger to residents and the environment. 

In 2000, residents petitioned Pioneer to address the impact of the dust and chemicals, saying they were concerned about dust on “our homes, our cars, our streets and buildings, and most alarmingly, our children, who are forced to breathe dust-laden air as a part of living.” Pioneer responded with a letter vowing to take immediate steps to minimize dust from the fields. 

But according to the lawsuit, “the influx of dust and chemicals from Pioneer’s fields has continued while Waimea residents fight a daily battle to keep their homes and property free of dust and chemicals and continue to suffer on a daily basis.” 

Cindy Goldstein, the business and community outreach manager for Pioneer, told the Garden Island ( ) she couldn’t comment on pending litigation. “We’ve been a good community partner for over 40 years, and even though this suit has been filed, we’ll continue to be a good community partner,” she said. 

Honolulu attorney Gerard Jervis, one of the lawyers representing the residents, said his clients “are living in lockdown, unable to open their doors or windows,” Jervis said. 

The suit will not address health impacts, but Las Vegas attorney Kyle Smith indicated a potential for another lawsuit that will explore respiratory impacts. 

The lawsuit doesn’t specify a monetary figure, but the attorneys told the newspaper it would be a substantial amount to address the diminished values of more than 100 homes. 


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