So now that we actually, finally, have some real data on pesticide prevalence in Hawaii — data that show “None of these levels present a risk to human health or the environment,” according to Department of Health toxicologist Fenix Grange — will any of the hysteria diminish?
Don't count on it. There's power and money to be found in fear-mongering, so you can be assured it will continue unabated, especially in an election year, when several candidates have nothing to offer voters but a shared affinity for red shirts and fist-waving.
Though downplayed by The Garden Island (which posted a wrong link to the study), Civil Beat's coverage tells the real story:
The study, which analyzed water from 24 streams, found that the areas with the greatest number of pesticides were not near large farms but rather in urban Oahu.
Streams in urban Oahu had the highest number of pesticides present, including one site where 20 types were detected. In total, the study found 41 pesticide compounds.
The study also analyzed seven sites for the presence of glyphosate, an herbicide that is more commonly known by its trade name, Roundup. The state doesn't generally test for glyphosate because of the high cost, but members of the Environmental Council advocated for more testing last fall.
Three of the seven sites had glyphosate, but at extremely low levels — the highest concentration was 60,000 times lower than the lowest benchmark available.
Marjorie Ziegler, a member of the Environmental Council [and director of Conservation Council for Hawaii], said that the main takeaway for her were the higher levels in urban areas, rather than near large farms growing genetically engineered crops.
"The myth in my head says that GMO is increasing all those pesticides but maybe that isn't the case," Ziegler said, using the popular term for genetically modified organisms.
Which is exactly what some of us have been saying all along. If Councilman Gary Hooser really was concerned about pesticides, he would have introduced a bill that also dealt with urban uses, as some of us had requested. Instead, he focused narrowly on the five major ag operators — a move that ensured national publicity for him, and funding support from mainland groups like Center for Food Safety, but placed the bill in legal jeopardy because it's discriminatory.
Meanwhile, those in the anti-GMO movement, like the new OEQC director Jessica Wooley, responded to the study not with relief, but a new mantra: “This is a great first step.”
Except as Fenix told The Garden Island, there is no planned second step, cause they no more money for follow-up studies. Seems the Lege dumped a proposal that would have increased funding and allowed for additional work.
So we don't have the money to keep monitoring for pesticides, even though it's supposedly a grave concern on this island, but we do have money to fight the legal battle to defend that crappy law. And Council Chair Jay Furfaro managed to find $12,000 for bee pollen studies solely to paint himself as eco-friendly, never mind all those years he ran Princeville Corp. with its gnarly poison closet.
And somehow our legislators scrounged up serious dough to fund the many pork barrel projects in their districts that will help them curry favor with voters.
The most curious of these was $270,000 for the Hawaii Island Land Trust to “conduct a long-range development plan for the former Coco Palms site.”
Why is that plan continuing when the Council endorsed the rebuild of Coco Palms and just today it was announced that Hyatt will manage the iconic 363-room resort?
Why are we still putting public money into that property, especially when there are other pressing needs? Like, say, environmental pesticide sampling, or public health studies that might put some minds at ease.
But from the get-go, folks have never clamored for studies, tests or even more money for state enforcement. So it's not surprising that none has been allocated, and we're right back in that place of don't look, don't know.
Because maybe all the players have something to gain by keeping facts out of what is now solely an emotional and political issue.