An estimated 4,000 people marched on Kauai, Hawai’i, on Sunday over concerns around the agrochemical/GMO industry’s impacts on the island, and in support of the “right to know” and the “right to protect.” Residents are particularly concerned about the impacts of very large amounts of Restricted-Use Pesticides (RUPs) on human health and the environment.
Marchers gathered at Vidinha Stadium, where they began with a pule (Hawaiian prayer) before proceeding down Rice Street to the County Council Building. On arrival, they circled the building and chanted “pass the bill.” The march is being called the largest in the island’s history.
Tomorrow the Kauai County Council reconvenes to discuss Bill 2491, which would require disclosure by the five agricultural companies that use 98% of Restricted-Use Pesticides on the island.
As the march proceeded down the mile-long path, marchers chanted “pass the bill,” “2491,” and “stop poisoning us, the garden island’s had enough.” As marchers approached the council building, loud cheers erupted as organizer Fern Rosenstiel repeated “we are united Kauai!”
Impacted community members, doctors, scientific experts, cultural practitioners, moms and teachers spoke at a public rally that also included music by Makana, Donavon Frankenreiter and other local musicians.
Three council members — co-introducers Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum, along with JoAnn Yukimura — came to voice their support for pesticide disclosure and greater protections from the impacts of the agrochemical/GMO industry. The bill requires 4 votes to pass.
The island’s mayor Bernard Carvalho was amongst the large crowd that stood in the relentless sun listening to hours of impassioned speaking.
Young people were some of the most visible at the march. Waimea valley resident and young father Nate Dickinson spoke of concern for the health of his family, who live surrounded by experimental GMO operations and have faced severe and unexplained health issues.
Bryce Boeder, another young westside resident, said it was “time for the island to shift from the chemical based monoculture to an organic permaculture.”
Another young local woman, Hoku Cabebe thanked marchers for coming out “not just for the bill but for our future; not just for Kauai but for a better world.”
Four of the world’s largest agrochemical/GMO corporations currently use some of Kauai’s best agricultural lands to test their new technologies. Because many of their operations are experimental, the agrochemical/GMO corporations often spray several Restricted-Use Pesticides simultaneously (called “stacking”), in combinations that are not regulated and have never been studied for their immediate and long-term dangers to human health.
Around 18-tons of Restricted-Use Pesticides (RUPs) are used on the island annually by these operations. RUPs are those deemed so toxic that the that EPA requires they be applied only by or under the direct supervision of trained and certified applicators. They are banned in many other countries.
Dr Lee Evslin said, “I am here to lend scientific credibility to the reasons for this march. The American Academy of Pediatrics came out 10 months ago with a strongly worded statement linking pesticide use to delays in neurological development, endocrine abnormalities, behavioral issues and an increase in childhood cancers such as leukemia. They recommend buffer zones and the right to know.”
Through “Right to Know” Bill 2491, residents are seeking basic disclosure of pesticide use by the five companies that use 98% of RUPs on the island. The bill sets up a buffer zone between where these dangerous pesticides are used and schools, hospitals, residential areas and waterways. The bill also mandates that a health and environmental study be conducted, and in the meantime, puts a temporary moratorium on new operations.
The industry has threatened that if Bill 2491 passes they will be forced to fire workers. But bill supporters point out that, financially, there is no reason that the bill should be a major cost to the companies, who already keep internal records on pesticide application activity. The moratorium is only on expansion of the industry, and does not shut-down any existing operations.
Addressing rumors that Bill 2491 will regulate local farmers, Kauai Kunana Dairy owner Louisa Wooton said, “I’m 100% behind Bill 2491. It does not affect small farmers whatsoever. I read it frontwards and backwards before I was ready to lend my support and it’s really really good for agriculture!”
In response to claims by the industry that Bill 2491 is unconstitutional, local attorney Elif Beall said: “Bill 2491 has been reviewed by some of the country’s top attorneys specializing in pesticide and GMO regulation. The consensus among Public Interest experts is that Bill 2491 is constitutional and well within the County’s powers to protect the health and welfare of its residents and natural resources. Several of the country’s top attorneys have offered to defend the bill pro bono if it is challenged in court.”
Supporters of the bill say that there has been a complete failure of state and federal agencies responsible for the regulation, monitoring and protection of people’s health in relation to pesticide use by the agrochemical/GMO operations on the island, so the county must act.
The “Mana March” was organized by a broad coalition of groups and individuals, reflecting the diversity of concern around what has been called “the biggest issue Kauai has ever faced.”
Photos from the Mana March: