The Kauai Joint Fact-Finding Group on pesticides has lost a key member, with Roy Yamakawa quitting the appointed panel over disputed methodology.
Roy declined to comment and deferred questions to mediator Peter Adler, whose ACCORD group is overseeing the process.
“Roy had differences of opinion on the methods by which we are working to complete the last legs of the effort,” Peter replied in an email confirming Roy's departure.
Roy, now retired from his positions as Kauai extension agent and county administrator for the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Ag, had an understanding of pesticide use and local ag unmatched on the JFFG. And since a majority of panelists hold anti-GMO sentiments, his departure exacerbates that imbalance.
Still, Peter is urging people to wait and see.
“I like and respect Roy a lot and am urging he and everyone who contacts us to judge the JFF by the final product,” Peter wrote. “In the meantime, we are revamping our schedule to accommodate discussions on some additional data we have received. We hope to complete the effort by the end of March or as soon as possible after a public comment window and informational briefing inviting proposed factual additions or corrections.”
The JFF report was due out in early January. But it was lacking its crucial health section and the county and state, which are financing the $100,000 exercise, reportedly refused to accept the incomplete document. The health section reportedly is being vetted by an epidemiologist, and the state Attorney General's office is also reviewing the report.
Meanwhile, I've learned that a study on glyphosate in honey — recently submitted to the JFFG — was financed by Surfrider. The advocacy group has joined Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network and the county in appealing a judge's ruling that overturned Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, a hotly contested pesticide/GMO regulatory measure.
The ruling also invalidated a provision in the law authorizing an environmental and health assessment, prompting the state and county to fund the JFFG instead. The panel was charged with determining what is truly known about agricultural pesticide use on Kauai, and any associated environmental and health concerns.
The group was specifically directed not to conduct its own independent research, though it could make recommendations on studies and monitoring programs that should be pursued.
So it's extremely questionable that an advocacy group like Surfrider was allowed to finance new research — conducted under the guise of a high school science project — and submit the unverified results to the JFFG.
The study tested honey samples – some of them collected by beekeepers with anti-GMO views — and found glyphosate (Roundup) in about 35 percent. Surfrider's Carl Berg, who “mentored” the student who did the science project, said “the detection of glyphosate in honey does mean that it escapes from the point of application under current best management practices.”
However, since it's impossible to know where the bees collected the glyphosate, it's equally impossible to state that it was applied "under current best management practices” — especially since the popular weed killer is regularly sprayed by homeowners untrained in such practices.
Recently, the anti-GMO group US Right to Know made a huge stink about how Monsanto and other agrichemical companies were supposedly corrupting the scientific process simply by giving scientists money to conduct educational outreach programs.
If one of the seed companies had conducted a study and given the results to the JFFG, the antis would be screaming bloody murder. Yet when it's done by an advocacy group, one with a dog in this particular fight, it's no problem.
Now that's the kind of duplicity and hypocrisy that really grates.
As I suggested to Carl, if Surfrider is truly concerned about pesticides escaping from the point of application under current best management practices, it should test the air quality around a house undergoing termite treatments. The air should be tested again as the tent is removed.
After all, pest control applicators use more restricted use pesticides than any other industry in Hawaii — and significantly more than agriculture. Why is the focus solely on farm pesticides, even as activists claim they aren't anti-ag and it's not all about shutting down the GMO crops?