AP: Hawaii residents renew push for stricter pesticide rules

BY CATHY BUSSEWITZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS  January 4, 2017 at 8:35 AM EST

HONOLULU — Hawaii residents concerned about pesticide use by major agriculture companies on the islands are planning a push to strengthen regulation over chemicals they fear harm their health.

The divisive issue has drawn thousands to the Legislature in recent years following incidents where schoolchildren and agriculture workers fell ill and some suspected their sickness was connected to pesticides sprayed by seed testing companies.

Several major agriculture companies test genetically engineered crops on the islands, taking advantage of Hawaii’s year-round warm weather to develop new types of corn and soybeans and testing more generations of crops than they could in other states.

A recent study found there wasn’t enough evidence to show the pesticides used by Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and BASF Plant Science on Kauai caused adverse health or environmental effects on the community. But the study encouraged the state to boost its environmental monitoring and data collection.

A court decision declaring it’s up to the state — not counties — to regulate agriculture and a change in committee leadership in the House have added momentum to the effort to enhance state regulation.

“With really focused public pressure, we could really see something get through. The time is right,” said Ashley Lukens, director of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety.

Advocates are pushing bills to require companies to fully disclose when and where they’re spraying pesticides and to mandate buffer zones around schools and hospitals. Another proposal calls for the state and counties to stop using sprays containing glyphosate, an herbicide originally brought to market by Monsanto.

“I’m hopeful that we’re not going to wait for a bad event and see some terrible sickness in our state,” said state Sen. Josh Green, an emergency room doctor who plans to introduce the glyphosate ban bill.

Hawaii recently initiated a study on Oahu and Kauai to sample surface water for pesticides before and during storms to evaluate if chemicals are moving offsite at unacceptable levels.

The state also is planning to triple its fee to register pesticides to fund monitoring and to expand statewide the Kauai Good Neighbor Program — in which seed companies on Kauai voluntarily report their pesticide use monthly to the state.

But critics say the new programs fall short because reporting is voluntary and because the companies don’t disclose the location where the pesticide is sprayed.

Requiring companies to report spray locations could be tricky because fields where seeds are tested are generally spread out to avoid cross-pollination, and because it’s a competitive industry, said Scott Enright, chairman of the state Department of Agriculture.

“Even though they’re doing similar work, Syngenta, Monsanto Dow and Pioneer are all competitors, and they’re trying to keep the millions of dollars that they’ve put in to research the genetics lines that they’re developing as confidential business information,” Enright said.

Rep. Chris Lee, who plans to introduce buffer zone and disclosure bills, called the new state initiatives “woefully inadequate.”

“There’s still zero transparency for the long-term cumulative impacts on various communities around the islands for what’s being sprayed and any impact it may be having over the long term,” Lee said. “And that’s something that we have a clear obligation above anything else to dive into, because it is health and safety and people have a right to know.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sought $5 million in fines from Syngenta, saying the company violated pesticide rules on Kauai by letting workers without protective gear enter fields recently sprayed with a restricted insecticide. Syngenta said it takes responsibility but believes the agency is overstepping.

The case will go before an EPA administrative law judge.

The seed industry takes the issue of pesticides very seriously, said Bennette Misalucha, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which counts Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta among its members. It abides by state and federal regulations and rigorously trains employees, she said.

She added the industry objects to a “cookie cutter” approach to buffer zones because it could hurt small farmers, potentially removing chunks of land from production.

“You’re basically limiting somebody’s use of their private property, without just cause if you don’t have the science to back up what you’re asking for,” Enright said.

Although some states have tried to ban glyphosate, none have succeeded, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 2015, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization labeled glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.”

But the EPA said glyphosate has low toxicity to humans, and a joint meeting of a WHO group that assesses pesticide residues and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization concluded glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.

STAR ADVERTISER: Federal panel rejects county regulations on GMO crop cultivation

By Sophie Cocke
November 19, 2016
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Biotech companies operating in Hawaii scored a major victory Friday when a federal appeals court threw out ordinances on Kauai, Hawaii island and Maui that banned or restricted the cultivation of genetically modified crops and sought greater regulation over pesticides.

Agricultural giants, such as Syngenta and Monsanto, as well as local farming groups had joined in lawsuits suing the counties over the laws, which were the fruition of a growing and fractious anti-GMO movement across the islands.

The rulings by three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that federal and state laws pre-empt the counties’ authority to regulate the farming and testing of genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as GMOs, and related pesticide use.

The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which includes Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and Beck’s Hybrids, cheered the ruling.

The association “welcomes the protection that this decision provides Hawaii’s hard-working farmers and growers for standing up for science and for supporting continued innovation in agriculture,” according to a statement by the trade group. “In Hawaii, modern agriculture is thriving, contributing to the livelihood of farmers, the health of our environment, and the strength of our economy.”

HCIA added that the ruling “clears up potential confusion over who has jurisdiction in regulating agricultural operations, leaving that responsibility with the appropriate government agencies.”

The counties, who were joined by environmental groups and GMO opponents, had asked the 9th Circuit to overturn lower court decisions and allow the county laws to stand. The panel of appellate judges heard oral arguments in June.

County laws

In 2013 the Kauai County Council passed a law requiring large agricultural companies to divulge information about pesticide use and abide by setback rules for spraying pesticides. Commercial farmers were also required to report to the county on any GMO crops they were growing.

Anyone violating the law could face stiff penalties and even jail time.

Shortly thereafter Hawaii island implemented a law prohibiting biotech companies from operating on the island and banning farmers from growing any new genetically altered crops. The law exempted the island’s GMO papaya industry.

In 2014 Maui County voters approved a ballot initiative that banned testing and growing genetically altered crops until an environmental and public health study was conducted that showed the agricultural practices were safe. Biotech companies operating in Maui County estimated at the time 650 jobs could be lost if the moratorium went into effect.

Following Friday’s ruling, Robert Stephenson, president of the Molokai Chamber of Commerce, said the Maui County law would have been devastating to Molokai’s economy, causing the unemployment rate to soar to over 20 percent.

Lawsuits

When biotech companies sued the counties over the laws, an array of environmental law firms, food safety activists and anti-GMO groups rose to defend the counties, either by providing legal representation or becoming parties to the cases, including Honolulu’s Earthjustice, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, SHAKA and Surfrider Foundation.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff and George Kimbrell, a senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, said it was not clear whether the parties would continue pursuing the cases. They outlined two options: The parties could either ask for a new hearing before the 9th Circuit with an expanded panel of judges or appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What does seem clear is that the fight over GMOs in Hawaii isn’t over. Environmental and community groups concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the crops will likely shift their focus to the state level.

“Clearly, we are disappointed that in Hawaii right now these ordinances are dead,” said Achitoff. “There is no question we preferred a different outcome.”

But on a positive note, Achitoff said the court ruling clarified the state does have the power to regulate commercial GMO crops and pesticides, or afford such power to the counties if it so chooses.

“The takeaway for me is that all along the argument from the industry is that this is squarely and solely in the bailiwick of the (state) Department of Agriculture, and that is what the court decided,” said Achitoff. “So my position at this point is, OK, that is the decision whether we like it or not, so DOA, so Gov. (David) Ige, what are you going to do?”

Achitoff said that supporters of the county ordinances will likely pressure the state Legislature in the coming year to increase regulations of GMO crops and pesticides.

The 9th Circuit Court ruled that states have jurisdiction over the cultivation of commercial GMO crops approved for sale by federal agencies. However, the court said only the U.S. Department of Agriculture has the authority to regulate experimental crops and field trials.

Kimbrell said he was most troubled by the court giving the feds sole authority over experimental crops.

“The most important thing for us is that we will continue to stand with the people of Hawaii against the chemical companies,” said Kimbrell.

Meanwhile the counties themselves had various responses to the ruling Friday.

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said, “The 9th Circuit has spoken, but the U.S. Supreme Court is still an option, so I think saying anything right now would be premature.”

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who vetoed the County Council bill but was overridden, said that the ruling brought finality to the court case.

“Today’s ruling brings an end to a very divisive issue both on Kauai and throughout the entire state,” he said in a news release.

Hawaii County officials did not comment on the ruling.

NBC NEWS: Pineapple Pesticide Linked to Parkinson's Disease

MAGGIE FOX

DEC 9 2015, 6:55 PM ET

 

A pineapple pesticide that made its way into milk in Hawaii also made its way into men's brains, and those men were more likely to develop Parkinson's disease, a new study finds. 

It's the latest in a very long series of studies linking various pesticides to Parkinson's, which is caused by the loss of certain brain cells. 

And the study also seems to support a mystifying observation: smokers seem to be protected against Parkinson's. 

For the study, Dr. Robert Abbott of the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan, and colleagues studied 449 Japanese-American men living in Hawaii who were taking part in a larger study of aging. They gave details of how much milk they drank as part of a larger survey, and they donated their brains for study after they died. 

"FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH PARKINSON'S, UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS IS CRUCIAL."

The men who drank more than 16 ounces of milk a day had the fewest brain cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which is damaged in Parkinson's, they reported in the journal Neurology.

The researchers also looked for the pesticide heptachlor, which was taken off the market for most uses in the U.S. in 1988. 

"Among those who drank the most milk, residues of heptachlor epoxide were found in nine of 10 brains as compared to 63.4 percent for those who consumed no milk," the researchers wrote. 

It's known the milk in Hawaii was contaminated, probably from the feed given to the cattle. "The researchers could not test whether the milk the men drank was contaminated with pesticides (heptachlor, in this case), and no one knows how long or how widespread the contamination was before being detected," the Parkinson's Disease Foundation said in a statement on its website. 

"The potential link between drinking milk, pesticides and development of Parkinson's disease needs further investigation," the foundation said. 

The men who smoked and who also drank milk showed none of the brain cell loss. 

"This study is unique because it brings together two critical but different pieces of information — environmental exposure and physical changes in the brain — to understand potential contributors of Parkinson's disease," James Beck, vice president of scientific affairs at the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, said in a statement. 

"THE POTENTIAL LINK BETWEEN DRINKING MILK, PESTICIDES AND DEVELOPMENT OF PARKINSON'S DISEASE NEEDS FURTHER INVESTIGATION."

"For people living with Parkinson's, understanding the impact of environmental factors is crucial as nearly 85 percent have no idea why they developed Parkinson's. There is no clear genetic link," Beck said. 

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation estimates that 1 million Americans have the condition, marked by tremor, rigid muscles and problems with movement. There is no cure,although early treatment can delay the worst symptoms. 

"For scientists, the opportunity to study brains generously donated by the participants of this study was crucial to establishing a potential link between different environmental exposures and Parkinson's, and will be crucial to solving the disease overall," Beck said.

THE HILL: Paradise is Being Poisoned

January 05, 2016, 10:00 am

The Hill: Paradise is being poisoned

By Zen Honeycutt

 

Hawaii is ground zero for GMOs. Having visited there recently, I felt for the residents as I drove down the streets. I saw a children’s center across the street from some chemically sprayed fields. I stopped and spoke to the moms whose children are sick and saw the struggle in their eyes. Paradise is being poisoned.

New reports show toxic chemicals are actually being found inside of homes in Maui. Hawaii is home to more than a thousand GMO test plots. In comparison, California, the largest agricultural state in America, has a little over one hundred. We would like to think the chemicals stay outside of our homes, but this is not the case.

 

Three houses in Paia were found to be contaminated inside with herbicides, according to local sources. 

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture itself tested a home in Paia after a resident complained that nearby fields were over being sprayed. Their test results came back positive for 6 different kinds of herbicides in the bedrooms, the kitchen and on the trees in the yard. Dicamba, Diruron, 2,4-D, Pendimethanlin, Ametryn, and Hexazinone were all found inside of the home. Once again, the Department of Agriculture has failed to complete its investigation even though they have had more than 4 years to do so. They also decided not to warn nearby residents that their homes may have also been contaminated.

The Department of Agriculture is failing to evaluate the public health risks to Paia residents who were likely exposed to these harmful herbicides. The agricultural industry continues to say that these chemicals are safe for limited, one-time acute exposures at certain levels. However, there have been no scientific studies that have evaluated the health impacts on humans when combining these chemicals together. In addition, people who are living in homes that have been contaminated are being constantly exposed over time, as the residues are found on the walls, cabinets, furniture, and carpets. HC&S continues to spray near Paia Elementary School and this area still needs to be tested. A local group called Maui’s Dirty Little Secrets group revealed five different samples taken from one house, each from a different location in the home.

Leaders have joined with the locals in urging Paia residents to immediately call the Paia Elementary School principal as well as state Sens. Kalani and Baker to protect Hawaii residents from further health threats caused by overspraying.”

This statement is horrifying. The presence of these chemicals is a warning of almost imminent danger. Evangelos Valliantos, a former EPA employee of 29 years, recently wrote an article on the EPA’s failed tactics to manage toxic chemicals. 

Valliantos shows how 2,4-D, one of the chemicals found in these Paia homes is  a known toxin and the safety studies for many chemicals are completely fraudulent and falsified. 

In Valliantos’ book Poison Spring, he says "the EPA should know better. In many instances, EPA couldn't trust the data of the chemical industry. For example, pesticide companies funded fraudulent testing of their chemicals for decades. A scientist of the Federal Drug Administration, Adrian Gross, discovered that fraud in 1976.”

Over a long period of time, many of these chemicals have been proven harmful in a multitude of ways like destroying gut bacteria and weakening the immune system. They also cause sex hormone changes, birth defects, miscarriages, DNA mutation, liver and kidney damage, reproductive organ mutations and more.

This is why Monsanto spent more than 8 million dollars on one county of Maui, to prevent an initiative to require a moratorium on GMO open air test plots until tests proved these chemical safe. They knew they couldn't or their GMO farming industry in Hawaii would be over.

The residents exposed to the 90 chemicals in 63 combinations that are sprayed up to 19 times a day, impact citizens, especially children, which could be permanently altered by the presence of these chemicals.

We all could be.

The fact is that these chemicals are not just in these resident's living room window sills in Hawaii. Many of these chemicals are on our food and in our homes in other parts of the country because we’ve allowed GMO chemical farming.

The uncomfortable reality is that the reason why these pesticides are being reported in Maui neighborhoods is because the GMO chemical companies want to spray them on our food all over the world. 

They don’t wash off, dry off, or cook off.  

We eat them, and our children eat them. These GMO test plots are where the chemical companies test and plan the chemical combinations to be sprayed on new GMOs. Many of these same chemical combinations are already being sprayed on our current GMOs, which make up 85-100% of crops like corn, soy, sugar, cottonseed oil, canola oil and smaller percentages of apples, potatoes, squash and bananas. 

So this horrifying evidence of Hawaiians being poisoned in their own homes from pesticide residue is not only impactful because we feel for them and want justice for them. It’s also horrifying because what is happening to them is a glimpse of what is happening to all of us in North America and in many other parts around the world. 

We are ALL consuming toxic chemicals on our food. Even those of us who are eating organic foods, because of drift and pollution in the air, water, soil and fertilizers. We are being poisoned by GMO chemical farming. Now is the time to stand up, speak up, and say no, in Hawaii and around the world. 

It has to stop now.

Zen Honeycutt is founder of Moms Across America