Debate over pesticide, GMO regs draws hundreds

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — The debate over a bill allowing Kauai County to regulate pesticides and genetically modified crops drew about 600 to the Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue, with hundreds more gathered outside.

The Kauai County Council held the public meeting Wednesday on the bill that would force corporations on Kauai to make public the application of restricted or experimental pesticides, if use exceeds five pounds or 15 gallons within a year, KITV reported. (http://bit.ly/16nfodc)

It would also require all GMO fields or storage facilities to be identified by geographic location and tax map key. And, it would establish buffer zones of 500 feet near schools, hospitals, homes, public roadways as well as streams and shorelines.

Supporters of the measure came to the meeting dressed in red T-shirts, many with the words “Pass The Bill.” Those opposed donned blue shirts, which read “We Are Kauai Ag.”

Kevin Folta, as associate professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, said the way biotechnology is framed in Bill 2491 is “inconsistent with what we know about the technology and its safety.”

GMOs, or transgenic crops, are some of the best studied and most analyzed plants on the planet, Folta said, according to The Garden Island (http://bit.ly/16lMDh4) newspaper. He said they’re used because they allow farmers to compete.

Dr. Judy Shabert, a physician and nutritionist who farms with her husband near Anahola, said today’s chemical pesticides have been linked to miscarriages, malformations, neurological deficits and cancer.

Local pediatrician Dr. Lee Evslin brought with him a letter signed by 15 Kauai pediatricians in support of the bill.

He said the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement last year saying pesticide exposure may be much more of a serious problem than previously realized, and that pediatricians “should support efforts to make pesticide-free zones around schools and other public places.”

Marc Lochner, a station manager for Syngenta, said the 500-foot pesticide-free buffer zone included in the bill would leave his company with about 10 percent of their farmable land.

He said this would put him and the rest of his family out of a job.

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