Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Touring the Kauai Seed Fields: Part III

The previous two segments of this series — Touring the Kauai Seed Fields: Part I and Part II — addressed pesticides, spraying activities and general misconceptions about what goes on in the West Kauai seed fields, where genetically engineered and hybrid plants are cultivated.

Today we'll take a look at Pioneer's pesticide storage shed and the computerized process used to authorize spraying operations. Though not every company uses the same software, it became clear upon seeing it in action that it would be nearly impossible to do the sort of “drenching” and experimental combination of products that opponents allege and fear.

But let's start at the beginning, in the pesticide shed. It's actually an old cargo shipping container, and much of the inventory comprised organic pesticides. Yes, organic farmers also use pesticides that must be registered with the EPA. And yes, the “chem companies” use many of the same pesticides and practices employed on organic farms.
Though Councilman Gary Hooser and his supporters love to make [false] claims, like the companies used 18 tons of pesticides, Dr. Joao Kopytowski Filho, a research scientist at Pioneer and licensed pesticide applicator, pointed out that weight means nothing when it comes to pesticides. Kaolin clay (Surround) is both the heaviest, and most benign, pesticide used. The key is active ingredient.

I'm super sensitive to the smell of pesticides, so I kind of dreaded going inside the shed, but the only odor I detected was the mustiness of a shipping container. There was a lot less inventory than I expected, given the claims that they are spraying vast quantities of poison day and night, but they said the quantity was what they typically have on hand. At least half the inventory was adjuvants, such as surfactants, which are mixed with pesticides to improve their performance.

Each product in the shed is managed under a barcode inventory system. Each container is weighed when it goes out, and when it comes back in, to ensure the quantity used matches what's on the work order. Empty containers are triple-rinsed and recycled.
Pioneer has used a GPS system to map all of its fields — a field may be a 10-foot plot — and the coordinates are entered into the computer when a crop is planted. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) inspection schedule is created  to scout for pests, based on the type of plant that is being grown.

Upon going to the field to scout, the IPM assistants use I-phones or I-pads to enter data about what insects they've seen into a computer program that helps them decide what to do about the pests, and when. If there's a large population of beneficial insects, and a low threat of damage, they'll let the beneficial insects take care of the pests.

“Spraying is the last option,” Joao said. “We can also do manual removal, or eliminate [infested] plants. It depends on the pest, the size of the plant and the likelihood of damage.”

IPM managers also consult three weather stations to gather data on wind, rain and other environmental conditions that could affect their treatment decisions.

Once they decide to spray, they create a computerized work order with documentables for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, including the type of pest, the product they'll be using, the type of sprayer and nozzle that will apply the product, the percentage of water in the mix and the environmental factors.
I watched as Joao tried to combine various chemicals, or exceed the application amount allowed on the label. Whenever he went outside the allowable parameters for using the product, the computer would reject the work order. And without a work order, no pesticides can be checked out of the storage shed.
In short, it would be nearly impossible for Pioneer to be experimenting with pesticide combinations, as GMO opponents claim, or exceeding the authorized application amount.

All the work orders are kept in an off-site data base, so Pioneer couldn't alter its records or fabricate new ones to cover up misuse. The whole intent of the software package is to prevent human error and protect people – especially field workers.

Pioneer staff said their water sprayer, which operates almost all day, has been misperceived as a sprayer. And though opponents claim the companies spray three times a day, what they either don't know or say is that the fields tend to be very small, and each in a different location.

Work orders may be created to treat just 10 or 50 plants, with as little as 5 or 7 milliliters of pesticide applied. The software was actually customized so Pioneer could chart these tiny applications. Typically, only very small quantities of restricted use pesticides are applied, Joao said. With organic pesticides, more product is used at a higher frequency.

The software also determines how much time must elapse before workers can re-inter the field, and that information is posted. Though people claim that pesticides are getting worse, they're actually getting less toxic, Joao said. They're breaking down faster, which means a shorter re-entry time, and they're more specifically targeted to pests.

Joao and the other Pioneer applicators bristled at the notion that they are dousing fields with no regard for safety. They face personal liability if they misuse pesticides, and they take their work seriously.

“Commercial applications like this are highly regulated,” Joao said, “but homeowners have no restrictions or oversight on their use of pesticides.”

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

We know what we have to live with and what we see, smell and sense! All sounds excellent, but we who live close by know better. You should read the transcript of the trial and understand all the underhanded things the company did----hopefully they are doing better at being a good neighbor----eyes are always watching! We can no longer hope for better, we have to be vigilant and do what we have to ro protect ourselves and the aina---all the living beings that surround and are under us! Have a good day and mahalo for reading this and taking this into consideration.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Ms. Joan!

Anonymous said...

Humm...... wasn't the trial you speak of.... about dust

Anonymous said...

"Triple rinsed containers" Question: where does the water then go? How do they dispose of the rinsed water which will have pesticide residue? Cess pool? Septic? Holding tank? Or just into ground? Day after day, year after year, decade after decade?

Dawson said...

Reading the posts from 8:27 AM and 10:21 AM, I'm reminded of the studies that show conspiracy believers defend their beliefs with greater fervor the more they're given proof that their beliefs are false. Similar reaction as religious zealots.

Anonymous said...

In terms of best practices, containers are usually triple rinsed into the mixing container, meaning when you get to the last bit of product in a jug, you rinse what's left into your sprayer to make sure not a drop is wasted. You add additional water to the sprayer anyway, so it's the best way to do it. The triple rinse water is used during the application, not put down the drain.

Anonymous said...

And how many organic farms on Kaua`i, India, California or anywhere USA have you visited for your balanced perspective? What first hand knowledge have you?

Anonymous said...


The trial was about dust, but common sense will tell one that the dust is laden with whatever is left on the soil. Conspiracy about what?! Why would we take time out to conspire about something we don't see, smell, taste, hear and feel-----while it sucks out the health of all the living in the area? Oh well, Dawson, you are very fortunate not to have to live the way some of have to---you are just a lucky bugga!!

Anonymous said...

These days the pesticides and herbicides are organic, meaning made with carbon-containing molecules. They are designed to break down in the environment. In the past, arsenic and lead was used as an herbicide and still persists in the soil today. Those were not seed/chemical companies spraying arsenic in Hawaii in the 1930's.

Anonymous said...

2:40. If you don't see smell, hear, feel or taste anything what makes you think there's a problem? Pesticides are made to break down pretty fast so there is nothing left in the dust.

Dawson said...


2:40 PM wrote:
...Why would we take time out to conspire about something we don't see, smell, taste, hear and feel-----while it sucks out the health of all the living in the area?

Thank you for proving my point.

Anonymous said...

traces of pesticides were found at Waimea Canyon School on several occasions. They set up cool equipment to do that----some were even found at Hanalei School!

Anonymous said...

Schools spray roundup to kill weeds. Kilauea School 's janitor is out there all the time spraying. He loves that shit.

Anonymous said...

7:26

Off the slippers of the kids walking to school from all the homeowners Roundup to kill weeds.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan.

The traveling propaganda show by phony "Dr." Ashley Lukens of the HCFS (she has a PhD in philosophy --- POLITICAL science), co-sponsored by Hooser, the GMO-frees, and Hawaii SEED, is an outrage.

Lukens disparages local farming using startling but false claims about chemicals, medical issues, agriculture, biotechnology, law, toxicology, epidemiology, economics, and DOA staff without ANY expertise in those areas. She tries to boost her credibility by proclaiming to have been a professor at the University of Hawaii but was a part-time, temporary lecturer in social studies, before she even got her degree. Certainly NOT a professor. Lukens should stick with her area of expertise ---POLITICS and narcissism.

How dare she manipulate the public with her uneducated fear-mongering.

Totally unscientific, totally political and totally irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

ms. joan, do you know how the attendance was at HCFS presentation in Waimea last night?

Ed Coll said...

“Proprietary software is an unsafe building material,” Mr. Moglen had said. “You can’t inspect it.”

That was five years ago. On Tuesday, Volkswagen admitted it had rigged the proprietary software on 11 million of its diesel cars around the world so that they would pass emissions tests when they were actually spreading smog.

Anonymous said...

What's that got to do with the post Ed?

Anonymous said...

"What's that got to do with the post Ed?".........uhm try put on yo'thinkin' cap and emulate the 'critical thinking' skillz of this blog's author.

good clarifying question, tho!

Anonymous said...

There are uninformed people on both sides of this issue. However, the difference is that on the pro-GMO side, the uniformed keep their mouths shut. Not so on the Anti side.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's just a clock.

Anonymous said...

In Ed Coll's mind if one person who works for a corporation lies every person who works for a corporation lies. But the activists always tell the truth.

Anonymous said...

Pope Francis’s encyclical didn’t just cover climate change, he also denounced pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, declaring “the spread of these crops destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present and the future of regional economies.”

Dawson said...


Ed Coll wrote...
“Proprietary software is an unsafe building material,” Mr. Moglen had said. “You can’t inspect it.”

That was five years ago. On Tuesday, Volkswagen admitted it had rigged the proprietary software on 11 million of its diesel cars around the world so that they would pass emissions tests when they were actually spreading smog.


Calling out Coll on his lame-o logical fallacy. Surely you can do better than that?

("That's the best I can do, Dawson. And don't call me Shirley.")


Dawson said...


5:14 AM wrote:
Pope Francis’s encyclical didn’t just cover climate change, he also denounced pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) crops, declaring “the spread of these crops destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present and the future of regional economies.”

Pope Francis also canonized Junipero Serra, who oversaw the California mission system. For those who are guzzling the Pope's Kool-aid, there are reams of historical proof that the missions were forced labor camps where Native Californians were imprisoned. Countless died from physical abuse, malnutrition and disease. For the Pope to make Serra a saint, and justify it with "he defended the Indians," is an outrageous denial of reality.

But then, history shows that denials of reality are S.O.P. for the Vatican.


Anonymous said...

Kapaa Pharmacy got robbed over the weekend and no news nowhere.

The chronics that are on ice, heroin and Oxy feens rob the place with a gun.

That's the word in the Kauai street: coconut wireless.

Why come no news to apprehend the criminal(s)?

Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Joan. Even having experience with agriculture and biotech companies, it's enlightening to read about the systems and controls they have in place.
Thank you for taking the time out to look into facts and evidence. It's a shame so many people don't do the same.

Anonymous said...

The pope is an anti!

Anonymous said...

Kauai man arrested in robbery of Kapaa pharmacy

By Star-Advertiser staff

POSTED: 04:59 p.m. HST, Sep 25, 2015

Kauai police Wednesday night arrested a 42-year-old Kapaa man who allegedly robbed a Kapaa pharmacy Sept. 19.

Police said the man was arrested at his home on suspicion of first- and second-degree robbery.

At about 12:30 p.m. Sept. 19, a masked man armed with what looked like a handgun, walked into the Kapaa Pharmacy and demanded prescription drugs.

The pharmacist complied, and the man fled with more than $1,000 in prescription drugs.

Police, using surveillance video, were able to identify the suspect.

He was later arrested and is being held in police custody in lieu of $500,000 bail.

The suspect has not yet been formally charged and is expected to appear in District Court next week, police said.