GMOs debated on Garden Isle
Battle lines were drawn on Kauai Wednesday as a bill that seeks to reel in the GMO industry went to public hearing before the County Council.
Kauai County public information assistant Sarah Blane said the crowd inside and outside of the Kauai Veterans Center was estimated at 2,000 people, which would represent nearly 3 percent of the island's population.
"We're just thrilled with the turnout here today, and we look forward to a positive discussion (and) a great path forward," said Scott McFarland, state vice president for the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group that supports genetically modified crops.
Those in support of the GMO industry wore light-blue T-shirts, while those who opposed wore red. It was almost a carnival-type atmosphere at the public hearing with both sides positioning themselves along Kapule Highway, while trying to get drivers to honk their horns.
The controversial bill is being sponsored by councilmen Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum. It would force GMO corporations on Kauai to make public the application of restricted or experimental pesticides, if use exceeds five pounds or 15 gallons within a year. All GMO fields or storage facilities would be identified by geographic location and tax map key. The bill would also establish buffer zones of 500 feet near schools, hospitals, homes, public roadways as well as streams and shorelines.
In addition, open air testing of experimental pesticides would also be banned, as well as the cultivation of experimental GMOs outside of a laboratory or contained greenhouse. The bill also calls for an environmental impact statement that would lead to a permitting system and a temporary moratorium on any new GMO production or experimentation.
"We're here to hear from both sides of the community, from all sides," Hooser told KITV4. "At the end of the day when this process is done a couple weeks from now, I'm hopeful that we'll have a bill, a new ordinance that satisfies both sides.
However, those who work within the GMO industry say all of the restrictions imposed by Bill 2491 could drive away jobs, or perhaps even corporations. Pioneer, Syngenta, Monsanto, DOW and BASF all have a presence on the Garden Isle.
"It's been great to see the community turn out and really bring forward to the council a message about the importance of jobs in our community, (and) the importance of good, sustainable agriculture," said McFarland.
The bill faces another vote in Hooser's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee before it can be forwarded to the full council for a final approval. Since Hooser and Bynum sponsored the bill, the measure needs just two more votes for passage on the seven-member council.
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