Wednesday, December 21, 2011
“Eat local” in Kauai at your own risk
by Larry Geller
If you “eat local” and shop at a Kauai farmers market, how do you know that you’re not buying produce contaminated with pesticide overspray alleged in a recent lawsuit? In fact, you don’t know, and if the lawsuit succeeds, it will demonstrate that the State of Hawaii has not protected you for at least a decade.
A lawsuit filed December 13, 2011 in state court seeks damages on behalf of 150 Kauai residents against GMO grower Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a company owned by DuPont. The suit alleges that Pioneer allowed pesticides and chemical-laden dust to blow into residents’ homes for more than a decade, and that Pioneer is in violation of state laws.
While the State of Hawaii is not named in the lawsuit, we as consumers should be concerned that the alleged violations of state law regulating pesticide use were not enforced for so long a time, and up to the present. The lawsuit mentions, for example, HRS §149A-2:
Hawaii Revised Statute 149A-2 prohibits the use of pesticides in any manner that
presents an unreasonable adverse effect on the environment, which includes any
unreasonable risk to humans or the environment with consideration for the
economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of the pesticide's use.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Gerard Jervis and P. Kyle Smith, does not include claims for health effects, reserving those claims for a possible subsequent action.
For more information on the lawsuit, see: Waimea residents sue Pioneer (Garden Island, 12/13/2011).
Now, if you choose organic produce, you’re ok, right? Not if the farm is oversprayed by pesticides from an adjacent farm. The lawsuit alleges that there is spray drift, and that Pioneer is using “restricted use” pesticides that are harmful to human health even when used as directed:
In addition to excessive fugitive dust, Pioneer uses numerous herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other chemicals (collectively, "pesticides") on its GMO Test Fields on an almost daily basis.
Pioneer's intense application of dangerous pesticides occurs far more frequently than historic agricultural practices followed near Waimea.
Pioneer's pesticides pose a recognized hazard to migrate into the adjacent Waimea community and environment by the widely recognized transport mechanisms of runoff, volatilization drift, and spray drift.
Pioneer uses restricted-use pesticides on its GMO Fields. Restricted use pesticides are pesticides that may cause unreasonably adverse effects to human health and the environment even when used as directed by the product labeling.
It is reasonable to question if produce sold by an organic farm is still “organic” if it has been oversprayed with pesticides. If spraying at the GMO field is almost daily, then crops harvested from a nearby farms and taken to market may have been oversprayed even as they are being picked.
“Eat Local” only works when protective laws already on the books are strictly enforced. Unfortunately, if this lawsuit succeeds, it could demonstrate that “eating local” in Hawaii may be hazardous to your health.
Look closely at your lettuce. Can you tell if there’s any pesticide on it? Of course not. We are dependent for the safety of our food on assurances given us by state law and on the strict enforcement of that law by responsible authorities.
To recap: if the alleged conditions are proven in court, it means that Kauai residents have not been protected from the harmful effects of pesticide use, and that nearby farms will have been oversprayed with restricted use pesticides for as much as a decade—without interference from state agencies.
Of course, the issue is not limited to Kauai. Do we want “sustainable agriculture” in Hawaii if it means laissez faire on pesticide and chemical use on our farms?
We deserve better from our state government.
The GMO crap is going on on the west side. The current "breadbasket" on Kaua`i- where allmost all the orgainc farms are- is on the North Shore.
We do deserve better from the people in the State government, we work our tails off to pay their salaries... they love to call themselves civil servants, a classic lie the way things are run. A tragedy of non-producers milking the producers.
I guess all the payoffs they from Pioneer are going to be given back when the whole sues the state.
It might be good to get the names of legislators who took campaign money and other ʻgiftsʻ from the GMO companies so they can be directly implicated.
I have some questions if someone could please answer:
When the seed is injected with pesticide to make it insect resistant, what is the evolution of the contamination? Does it remain as the fruit or vegetable grows to ripeness?
Donʻt know if I worded that correctly.
I think Steveo should better develop his point as I am having difficulty understanding exactly what his complaint is. If he is unhappy that the State is not better monitoring the use of pesticides, I would think that means he supports hiring more inspectors for the Department of Agriculture (or would it be the Dept of Health)? The State is hearing the two competing demands: 1) limit government spending, and 2) Deliver high levels of service, with the first message overpowering the second. So services and personnel in all government agencies are cut to the bone, then people grumble when there are not enough inspectors to regulate the use of pesticides--or the number of rats dancing each night on produce in Chinatown.
Unfortunately, the demand to cut taxes often does result in substandard government service. Look at the schools. Higher pay for teachers, smaller class sizes and more teacher prep time would undoubtedly increase learning. But taxpayers refuse to pay higher taxes, prefering to exploit the idealism of teachers. As school performance declines, it feeds the perception government cannot do a good job, justifying further spending cuts.
But your argument doesnʻt fly because the GMO companies were doing this long before the financial ʻcrisisʻ and labeling of a food product has been SOP for decades...except for GMO reps who believe they donʻt have to follow the rules.
You have no engaged my "argument." I never spoke against GMO labeling. I favor it. I also favor that GMO companies should be covered by the same liability laws as other companies. If their genetic material escapes the confines of their field and affects the commercial value of non-GMO, organic produce downwind, they should be liable for the damages.
If you want to engage my argument, it is that the public is clamoring for reduced taxes and cuts in government spending, while at the same time demanding top-knotch service from government agencies. Because of years of conservative propaganda, people do not understand how threadbare and understaffed government agencies are. This underfunding has diminished the quality of government services, further delegitimatizing the very idea of government services, which leads to support for further cuts. It is a vicious, downward spiral.
Steveo's comment appears to reflect this contradiction. He badmouths the state for not regulating the use of pesticides, but using language which badmouths public funding for such activities. That might work while grumbling about politics over a beer with the buddies, or on a radio call-in show, but it isn't very helpful in providing guidance to either legislators or government employees who might actually care about improving this kind of protection.
As to "it isn't very helpful in providing guidance to either legislators or government employees who might actually care about improving this kind of protection."
They have had avalanches in guidance and scientific documentation to guide them. So...whatʻs up?
"Now, if you choose organic produce, you’re ok, right? Not if the farm is oversprayed by pesticides from an adjacent farm."
This actually depends upon which certifying body deemed any such farm "organic." A farm cannot just call themselves organic and put it on their label; They have to be certified as such, and there are many different organizations who do so- with differing standards- including the government. USDA Organic, for instance, has different standards than Oregon Tilth. Some organizations take into account factors such as neighboring farms, wind patterns, runoff, etc. Samples of the food produced in a given farm/factory are tested as well, so that food grown organically and then sprayed by a neighboring farmer will not pass the test.
If one cares about buying organic it's worthwhile to investigate the differing standards and note the certification on any given product.