In the wee hours of Thursday morning, after a 19 hour hearing, the Kaua'i County Council passed landmark legislation requiring that pesticide use on the island be publicly disclosed.
The local victory came despite powerful pressure from some of the world’s largest pesticide corporations, many of which use land on Kaua'i to develop and field test their genetically engineered (GE) seeds and pesticide products.
Hawai'i Governor Neil Abercrombie attempted to stall the vote in favor of passing weaker, state-wide legislation. But Hawai'i is one of the few states where local governments can pass laws more restrictive than those on the books at the state or federal level.
So in the face of aggressive opposition from both industry and state officials, the people of Kaua'i fought for — and won — additional protections for their communities.
Veto-proof local legislation
After hearing from more than 80 people throughout the hearing, the Kaua'i County Council voted 6 to 1 in favor of passing Bill 2491 at 3:35 am on Thursday morning. And while Mayor Bernard Carvalho has voiced opposition to the bill — and attempted to stall the final Council vote — his signature is not necessary to turn this bill into law. Any legislation receiving five or more votes is veto-proof.
The lone vote against the bill came from Councilman Mel Rapozo, who voiced concern that measure unfairly targets biotech companies and sets the county up for lawsuits. But Council Chair Jay Furfaro had no such concerns, sending this message to Syngenta, DuPont/Pioneer and other corporations using the island to field test their products:
"To the seed companies, I want to make sure you understand that we have to envision the future for our island. Your companies have your policies. But we need to envision Kaua'i in the future and this is a start for us."
A broad coalition of Kaua'i moms, healthcare professionals, farmers and civic leaders worked tirelessly to pass Bill 2491. This final Council vote comes after months of community-led organizing, including collecting more than 50,000 signatures, coordinating a march of more than 4,000 people, and packing the house at multiple marathon council hearings.
Big 6 "can't keep people in the dark"
PAN’s Hawai'i organizer Jennifer Ruggles, based on Kaua'i, has been supporting local community efforts to pass the bill. After the final vote, she said:
“The Kauai County Council deserves praise for overwhelmingly passing a bill that supports and protects the interests of residents, despite pressure from DuPont/Pioneer, Syngenta and the rest of the world’s largest pesticide and genetically engineered seed corporations.
“Today’s victory underscores that a handful of corporations can’t keep people in the dark."
The law — which will mandate pesticide use reporting, implement buffer zones and require further study of pesticide impacts on community health and the environment — is set to take effect in nine months.
Photo courtesy of Stop Poisoning Paradise!