Veto override will limit pesticide use, GMO crops on Hawaiian island

Reuters

By Christopher D'Angelo

LIHUE, Hawaii, Nov 16 (Reuters) - The governing body on theHawaiian island of Kauai voted on Saturday to override theirmayor's veto of a bill that seeks to reign in widespreadpesticide use and the testing of new genetically modified crops.

The Kauai County Council's 5-2 vote means agriculturalcompanies will be unable to plant crops inside buffer zonescreated around schools, homes and hospitals. New limits will beplaced on pesticide use and companies must disclose where theywill plant test crops.

The vote to override Kauai County Mayor Bernard CarvalhoJr.'s veto caps months of protests by islanders and mainlandU.S. groups opposed to extensive testing of crops on Kauai, alargely rural island that has a tropical climate consideredideal for trying out new biotech crops. The council needed fivevotes to cancel the veto.

The spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foodand feed has triggered a global dispute with critics claimingGMOs require more use of pesticides and cause environmentaldamage and health issues for people and animals.

Companies opposed to the measure have said biotech crops areessential in boosting global food production and in improvingenvironmental sustainability. They said pesticides already arewell regulated by state and federal agencies.

Among the firms that have tested biotech crops on Hawaii's"Garden Isle," as Kauai is known, are DuPont, Syngenta AG, andDow AgroSciences, a division of Dow Chemical Co.

Passage of the measure in Kauai was hailed byCalifornia-based Pesticide Action Network North America.

"The victory not only creates critical new laws but alsoserves as a signal to other communities across the United Statesthat they can prevail over powerful corporations," Paul Towers,the group's organizing and media director, said in a statement.

Concerns about pesticide use on the island have beenmounting in recent years and some people contend healthproblems, including cases of cancer, are tied to the farmchemicals on the experimental crop fields.

Carvalho said the bill is vulnerable to legal challenge andhe proposed ordering a study on health and environmental impactsof pesticides on the island.

"Of course we will honor the council's decision and I willcontinue to work with my departments to determine how we willimplement this new law," the mayor said after the vote. He saidthe law would take effect in nine months.

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