Group sues over state-land seed crop on Kauai
A community association, three nonprofits and an individual are asking a judge to stop Syngenta from growing seed corn on state-owned land on Kauai as the company works to complete a sale of its Hawaii operations.
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A community association, three nonprofits and an individual are asking a judge to stop Syngenta
from growing seed corn on state-owned land on Kauai as the company works
to complete a sale of its
The group, which includes the Surfrider Foundation and Kauai residents concerned with pesticide use and genetically modified crops, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Circuit Court on Kauai against
Syngenta and the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, alleging that
Hawaii environmental law wasn’t followed in issuing a permit to use 61 acres of state land in Kekaha about a mile from the ocean.
The land, according to Department of Land and Natural Resources documents, has been approved for growing seed crops since 1982. But the plaintiffs claim that DLNR’s board relied on an outdated Conservation District Use permit and improperly sidestepped an environmental review when the board approved a new revocable permit for a Syngenta subsidiary to use the property in February for $1,320 a month.
Syngenta needed the new permit because the board’s current practice is not to
allow revocable permit transfers. Syngenta formed a Hawaii subsidiary to consolidate and sell its local operations covering 4,000 acres on Kauai and Oahu to Madison, Wis.-based seed corn producer Hartung Brothers Inc., which would produce seed for Syngenta under contract. That sale is slated to be completed by the end of this month.
DLNR typically doesn’t comment on litigation. The agency’s board exempted the permit from an environmental study on grounds that the permit was routine and involves negligible impacts beyond any that previously existed.
“The subject lands have been in agricultural use
for many decades, which has resulted in no known significant impacts to the natural and environmental resources in the area,” a staff report said. “As such staff believes that the proposed issuance of a revocable permit for the same use to a new entity would
involve negligible or no
expansion or change in use of the subject area beyond that previously existing.”
The staff report said a Conservation District Use application and a land use permit were approved in 1982 for Kekaha Sugar Co. and Pride Co. to grow seed cane and research seed stock fields of primarily corn, sunflowers and soybeans on the site.
Pride’s permit passed to Northrup King Co. in 1993, then Northrup became
Novartis Seeds in 1997 and then that company became Syngenta Seeds in 2000. The new subsidiary is Syngenta Hawaii LLC.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit contend that the Conservation District Use permit was issued to a different company and for a different use that makes it invalid for
Syngenta. The lawsuit also said the exemption to an environmental review was invalid because DLNR’s board didn’t make findings to support an exemption, and that a new permit required an environmental study.
In addition to the Surfrider Foundation, other plaintiffs are Ke Kauhulu‘o Mana, Kohola Leo, the
Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and Kekaha resident Punohu Kekaualua III. They claim that Syngenta operations under its permit represent imminent harm to the environment, themselves and other
West Kauai communities.
The plaintiffs claim that there have been failures
to assess potential environmental impacts of genetically modified organisms and processes associated with developing them, and that chemical odors and dustlike substances have emanated from the Syngenta site.
“This suit is being filed
to ensure that sensitive, coastal, and publicly-owned lands zoned for conservation are given the proper and legally required environmental review prior to being leased out for private commercial use,” Lance Collins, a local attorney
representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
A Syngenta official could not be reached for comment Thursday.