HILO, Hawaii – State lawmakers faced a tough crowd at the University of Hawaii-Hilo on Thursday evening.
A number of residents in attendance during the post-legislative session talk story hammered Hilo’s state representatives Richard Onishi and Clift Tsuji for their positions on pesticides and the biotech industry. Tsuji and Onishi serve as chair and vice chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, respectively, which means they have the say as to which pesticide bills get heard and which are left off the agenda.
Leilani Lindsey-Kaapuni asked the lawmakers why HB2564, which would have “established a pilot program that creates a vegetative buffer zone around five selected schools near a commercial agricultural production area”, was deferred at the House Ag Committee even though hundreds testified in support. Onishi said there weren’t enough votes in the committee to pass the bill out.
Anti-GMO activist Jim Albertini called it corruption, declaring that the Monsanto agrochemical and biotech company is one of Rep. Tsuji’s top campaign donors.
“If you do believe…. that I’m corrupt,” Rep. Tsuji answered, “I think there’s an avenue for you to take besides accusing me directly, that you can do and go through legal channels.”
Carol Hart flew in from Kauai so she could confront the state lawmakers on their actions. Hart says her family lives in a community surrounded by an experimental seed company, and says she and her family have been tested and have found elevated levels of pesticide in their bodies.
“There is no evidence of any kind of effect on Kauai or Maui (compared to) anywhere else in the state, due to the application of pesticides by the large seed companies,” Onishi said.
“There’s no data!” yelled someone in the crowd.
“The reason for that is because the state and the federal government have not done a more extensive data collection,” Onishi responded. “This is an issue of how much work are you going to put into something that may not prove to have any truth behind the accusation.” Hart shook her head as Onishi answered.
Both Onishi and Tsuji are running for re-election.
The talk story was organized by Hilo State Senator Kai Kahele, who joined the Hilo reps in making a post-legislative session presentation, detailing the bills and appropriations of interest to East Hawaii. Big Island Video News will have the video of all three presentations shortly.