Supporters of Hawaii pesticide law challenge agriculture companies in court
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HONOLULU, Hawaii, Feb. 24, 2014 - The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice filed papers today in federal district court in Honolulu to defend the County of Kaua‘i's 2013 pesticide disclosure law."
The law, or Ordinance 960 (formerly known as Bill 2491), requires the disclosure of pesticide and GE crops used on the island, and establishes buffer zones around locations like schools and hospitals. Supporters say the law will protect Kaua‘i residents and the environment from exposure to pesticides applied to genetically engineered (GE) crops
“The spectacle of four multibillion-dollar multinational chemical companies suing for the right to continue spraying Kaua‘i's residents with acutely toxic chemicals, and to keep what they spray and when they spray it a secret, is shameful,” said Earthjustice managing attorney Paul Achitoff. “Our clients deserve protection, and we will see that they get it.”
The Kaua‘i County Council voted to enact the law in November 2013, overriding Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho's veto. The mayor said the bill is preempted by state and federal law. However, the Kaua'i County Council overturned the veto in a 5-2 vote.
In January 2014, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (owned by DuPont), Agrigenetics, Inc. (owned by Dow Chemical), and BASF Plant Science LP, which collectively farm about 12,000 acres on the island, sued the County, claiming the law is not legally valid.
Under the bill's provisions, agricultural entities must disclose their use of pesticides, as well as their growing of any GMO crops in annual public reports to the State Department of Agriculture. The bill also requires a 500-foot buffer zone near schools and homes and several other locations.
The County of Kaua‘i must also complete an Environmental and Public Health Impact Study (EPHIS) intended to address environmental and health questions related pesticide and genetically modified crop use by commercial agricultural entities.
The agricultural companies claim the county's GMO law is invalid because it violates the U.S. and Hawaii Constitutions, multiple federal and state laws, and the Kaua'i County Charter.
“It arbitrarily targets our industry with burdensome and baseless restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties in Hawaii have no jurisdiction,” according to a joint statement from the companies in January. “These activities are already regulated by governmental agencies under state and federal laws.”
The coalition of intervening groups is Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), and Surfrider Foundation, and a local citizen group called Ka Makani Ho‘opono, “The Wind That Makes Right.”
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