After Kauai mayor vetoes GMO bill, state promises help

HONOLULU, Hawaii – On the heels of Kauai mayor Bernard Carvalho’s controversial veto of county Bill 2491 – relating to the disclosure of pesticide use and genetically modified crops on the island – the state is stepping up with a promise to initiate new pesticide guidelines and increase inspector positions for enforcement.

Bill 2491 passed the Kauai council on October 16 with a 6-1 vote after a marathon session that ended after 3:30 a.m. At the meeting, Mayor Carvalho pleaded with the council to defer the measure in order to first figure out how to enforce the law with state help.

The mayor went ahead with a veto on October 31, which resulted in a loud, angry mob storming the government building in Lihue to demand answers. The mayor addressed the anti-GMO crowd, trying to offer an explanation for his decision, which in part had to do with his administration’s legal opinion that the state has “clear legal authority over buffer zones and pesticide disclosure.”

Dangerous Situation in Lihue, Kauai as Mayor vetoes Bill 2491

From a Carvalho media release:

Bernard CarvalhoMayor Bernard Carvalho, 10/31/13

“I have always said I agree with the intent of this bill to provide for pesticide use disclosure, create meaningful buffer zones and conduct a study on the health and environmental issues relating to pesticide use on Kaua‘i. However, I believe strongly that this bill is legally flawed. That being the case, I had no choice but to veto.”

On Monday, the state Department of Agriculture reaffirmed the Mayor’s assessment “that complicated legal issues and practical enforcement and implementation details must be taken into consideration to effectively address community’s concerns.”

The department’s Chairperson Russell S. Kokubun – a Hawaii Island resident – said the state “is in the process of implementing guidelines for companies regarding pesticide disclosure and buffer zones and will be submitting a budget request to the Legislature for additional pesticide inspectors.”

From the November 4 Department of Agriculture media release:

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed House Bill 673, which the Governor in June signed into law as Act 105, requiring the state Department of Agriculture to post certain information regarding restricted use pesticides on its website. The act also requires the Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau to conduct a study on other states’ reporting requirements for non-restricted use pesticides.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie said: “This administration looks forward to working with the Mayor to determine a reasonable, thoughtful, and balanced course of action to address these issues and to provide the assurances of public health, safety, and protection.”

The state will work with the Legislature to restore positions within and seek additional funding for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health’s Environmental Health Administration, particularly for the neighbor islands, to address pesticide compliance and conduct inspections regarding pesticide contamination, and ensure that inspections are conducted in a timely manner.

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