The agrochemical industry in Hawaii is losing the war they have waged against our community these past few years. Rather than acknowledge our concerns about health and environmental impacts and comply with our modest requests for increased regulation, they have chosen to fight us every single step of the way and they are losing.
The industry is now back on their heels and we should be prepared for the pushback that is coming. You can be sure they will attack soon and attempt to undermine the many victories and reverse the momentum that is on our side. You can be sure they will attack our credibility and integrity while attempting to sow seeds of doubt as to our purpose and effectiveness. They will denigrate our efforts and attempt to divide us.
But our resolve knows no limits. We will be here long after they pack their bags and leave. And yes, BASF has already announced their departure, Dupont has reduced their GE test fields by over 3,000 acres and Syngenta likewise has abandoned significant Kauai lands.
The experimental fields no longer are planted in Lihue across from the airport or near the major shopping areas. The voluntary buffer zones and relentless public spotlight has resulted in the companies pushing their activity further from public areas which means a healthier environment for Kauai residents.
The march toward full accountability and full disclosure now has a life of its own and will not be stopped.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has two investigators now on the ground in Hawaii looking closely at the questionable and possible illegal conduct of the industry on several islands.
In a few short months the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will be taking under review the legal assault these companies have launched against the people of Kauai County, Maui County and Hawaii County. Winning is a real possibility and the industry is terrified.
Our efforts at the State legislature have stopped numerous attempts to strip away the County authority to regulate agriculture. The fight for mandatory state-wide disclosure of Restricted Use Pesticides application and related buffer zone requirements has been like an ongoing street fight, but we are winning on this front as well.
The State Department of Agriculture (SDOA) has announced its intent to extend Kauai’s existing voluntary program Statewide, and the SDOA sponsored Joint Fact Finding (JFF) report has recommended mandatory statewide disclosure, buffer zones and comprehensive testing.
Various public interest law firms are contemplating additional legal action during 2016 and the full ramifications of the Waimea communities unanimous court decision against Dupont Pioneer will continue to expand in the months ahead.
Syngenta’s inadequate worker safety standards resulted in the chemical exposure of 19 field workers to chlorpyrifos, sending at least 10 people to the hospital. This unfortunate incident has focused increased attention on the practices of this industry in Hawaii and the potential health impacts on workers and the nearby communities. The use of “contract labor” imported into Hawaii for high risk work and then exported out “back to where they came from” is also coming under increased scrutiny.
The public review of the agrochemical industries’ unethical conduct in Hawaii has reached both national and international audiences. At least 5 different documentary films spotlighting the thuggish behavior of these companies and harmful health and environmental impacts of their operations are carrying our story around the world. A major investigative national news organization is examining the Hawaii story and numerous national news organizations have and are reporting on Hawaii’s experience with the agrochemical industry.
New leaders are stepping up from our community to assume positions of leadership and run for public office. People are stepping up, investing time and resources and starting their own small farms – walking the talk and growing local food for local people. New stores carrying only local sourced food products have sprung up and more and more restaurants are focused on serving locally sourced organic products.
Our community is more aware and more informed on this issue than ever in history.
Yes, we are winning. While there remain many battles and many challenges ahead, we are in fact winning. Our community is better off today than it was three short years ago as a result of our work.
And I mean OUR. So many people and so many organizations, large and small have come together over the past few years to form this movement and we should take a moment to thank them.
Hawaii Seed, their founders and core volunteers on all islands started the discussion over a decade ago and invested countless hours in the sun, holding signs and holding the space for all of us. Dustin Barca and Ohana O’ Kauai have played a pivotal role in galvanizing people on all islands to take to the streets, to march and to speak truth to power. Ohana O’ Kauai is now growing food while continuing to grow the movement. The Moms Hui organized on each island and is doing valuable work, Babes Against Biotech bolstered by a powerhouse social media platform was launched and outreach was extended to like minded groups globally.
On Kauai Fern Rosenstiel, Sol Kahn and a small group of keiki o ka aina began to meet in living rooms around the island launching the conversation that eventually resulted in Bill 2491. In Hawaii County Councilmember Margaret Willie stepped up and enrolled others while Councilmember Elle Cochran held the torch high and bright on Maui as Shaka and a wide-spread network of community stepped into the space on Maui setting up that epic battle which has become the Maui miracle. The powerful voice of Uncle Walter Ritte together with the rise of the Aloha Aina movement added more momentum. The Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action or HAPA (of which I am the volunteer President of the Board) was formed to help organize, educate and advocate statewide, and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) stepped up to provide critical technical expertise as another valuable partner.
Earthjustice (Ej) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) have been anchors in the storm. Their legal experience, support and advocacy has been incredibly valuable. EJ has fought and won for us many public battles in Hawaii and around the world and we are fortunate to have their expertise and dedication in defense of our planet.
When CFS opened its Hawaii office and hired Ashley Lukens our widespread volunteer base was provided for the first time with full-time professional administrative support. Ashley and CFS have held down the fort at the legislature championing the good proposals, fighting relentlessly the bad ones and rallying the troops when needed. Their “Pesticide Report” is an invaluable resource and CFS should be commended for taking this report directly to the people in all parts of the State included those towns directly impacted and dominated by industry forces.
The mosaic that is the strength of our success include individuals like Alika Atay, Hector Valenzuela, Wendell Kabutan, Malia Chun and countless others who have stepped up in singularly important ways to support, to advocate and to take our efforts forward.
Our movement consists of a wide variety of people and groups, each with our strengths and weaknesses and each with our own egos and personalities. We must always remember to stand together. In solidarity.
That is our strength. That is why we are winning.
Find out more and support us if you can: http://www.hapahi.org
View: My remarks delivered to 900 Syngenta shareholders during their annual international shareholders meeting (4 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0zz7cV_Qe8
View: A short over-view of what we are fighting for: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7n4YG66iio
View: “The Little Island That Could” – my remarks on Kauai describing the Bill 2491 saga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHYwsu3Wefs