Jeff asked me to tell my story about Bill 2491 and our fight against the 4 largest chemical companies in the world. He wanted to know how it started and of course how it ended.
Jeff Gere, a Hawaiʻi storyteller known internationally for his creativity, put together this 3-part ECO-TOUR of HAWAIʻI – for the recent National Storytelling Network “Earth Up” Virtual Conference.
He asked me for the story, so I gave it to him.
I sat in my backyard on Kaua’i with Master Storyteller Jeff Gere and videographer extraordinaire Robert Zelkovsky and told them my story. Jeff prompted me with questions along the way, but mostly he just let me unload my thoughts and memories. He then took the nearly two-hour recording and condensed it into a concise 20-minute video: Gary Hooser vs. GMO Pesticides (20 min.)
It’s a tale told through my eyes, my memory, and my experiences of the time. It’s safe to say there are thousands of other stories from those who marched, who testified, and who spent many hours and days of their lives engaged in this monumental effort. It is a story shared by many.
On June 20, 2013, the now-infamous Bill 2491 addressing the health and environmental impacts of the agrochemical/GMO companies based on Kaua’i, was introduced before the Kaua’i County Council by myself and the late Councilmember Tim Bynum.
The following 6 months were probably the most intense, the most challenging, and the most fulfilling of my political life. The work and the fight continues, but those first 6 months were life-changing.
We won and we lost, and then we won again.
The effort started with only a handful of people on the ground, holding signs on corners and meeting in small groups in living rooms and coffee shops. It grew into thousands marching in the streets.
Due to the work of many, there are now modest buffer zones preventing the application of Restricted Use Pesticides on lands bordering schools. There are also requirements for full disclosure of every application of Restricted Pesticide Use – on all islands. The neurotoxin chlorpyrifos has been banned, as has atrazine. And public schools now have a policy banning the use of herbicides on school property.
The stories you tell are the stories you become, and the work of course goes on. Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and Dupont have all changed their names, but they and others, continue to develop, sell, and apply toxic chemicals on lands throughout the islands.
Yet the Hawaiʻil legislature continues to resist further attempts to increase regulation over the industry. The Chair of the State House Committee on Agriculture, Representative Mark Hashem, refuses to even schedule a hearing on increasing fines and penalties for pesticide misuse. Nor would he hear a bill proposing to increase pesticide buffer zones around schools.
However, he accepts campaign contributions from Bayer (Monsanto), a convicted corporate felon who knowingly used banned toxic pesticides, putting workers and residents at risk.
Fortunately, Rep. Hashem has an opponent in the upcoming August 13 primary election. She is a long-time resident of the district and shares our concerns as to the need for increased regulation of the agrochemical industry. She also believes in supporting responsible development, protecting our environment, improving our schools, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and addressing the ongoing water crisis caused by Red Hill which affects all of Oahu
Her name is Kathy Feldman https://www.kathyforhawaii.com and I strongly encourage all who are as outraged and as frustrated as I am – to support her today. An online contribution of any amount I am sure would be most welcome. If you live in ʻĀina Haina or Hawaiʻi Kai or have friends that live in the area, please reach out directly to her and volunteer.
We need Kathy Feldman to win.
* Written just prior to Bill 2491 It’s Not About Eating The Corn
* A short review of the SB3095 (post-Bill 2491) victory. This Is What Democracy Looks Like
* The most recent update on industry status. GMO Industry Footprint Shrinks By 50%