One thing became clear at last night's public meeting of the Joint Fact Finding Group: there is no unity among its members.
Nor was their unity among the 150 persons in attendance, at least half of whom were anti-antis.
The NBC “Dateline” crew was also there, chasing the “poisoning our keiki” bogeyman that had been pitched to them by anti-GMO activist Marghee Maupin. In running down that ghost, they've missed a truly compelling and tragic story: the ice epidemic that actually is ravaging “paradise.”
As the JFFG members spoke, it became apparent that the group did not function collaboratively, or harmoniously. But we won't see the solid proof of that until publication of the final document, which will contain a personal statement from each member. It's only too bad we weren't able to review the rationale behind their dissent and disagreement during the public comment period, rather than being led to believe that a majority endorse the words written by Accord 3.0 consultant Keith Mattson.
There was a lot of talk about what's being done in Europe and California, with Louisa Wooton holding up the Golden State as the golden example. I guess she doesn't realize that even there, where they apply some 200 million pounds of pesticides annually — more than anywhere else in the nation — restricted use pesticide data is published just once a year. Nobody is requiring real time, site-specific disclosure like the antis want and the JFFG report recommends.
Ironically, there was also a lot of talk about local rule. But it took Sarah Styan of DuPont-Pioneer to point out that only one panel member — Roy Yamakawa — was actually born and raised on Kauai, and he dropped out in disgust.
And who can blame him? Everybody's agenda was showing last night — including the facilitator's — making it obvious that a supposedly impartial fact-finding process was anything but.
Which is why we've got a report with a major disconnect between its findings — no evidence of any environmental or human harm due to agricultural pesticides in West Kauai — and its recommendations — extensive human and environmental testing, buffer zones, more detailed pesticide use disclosure.
Still, the Kauai Department of Water has already acted on one of those recommendations: testing the island's drinking water for chlorpyrifos. As you may recall, anti-GMO activist and Councilman Gary Hooser made a big fuss last fall, demanding that DOW test the water, even though DOW and the state Department of Health didn't think it was necessary.
In March, DOW tested two sites on the westside — Kapilimao, which is located on the Mana plain where a lot of agricultural activity occurs, and Waimea Well B, the primary water source for the Waimea community. It also tested Kilohana Wells A&B, both located in an agricultural area near Lihue, and the Waiahi Water Treatment Plant at the Kapaia reservoir, which is the county's only surface water source and thus the most susceptible to contamination by drift.
And what did the testing find? No detectable levels of chlorpyrifos. Nada. Zip.
But DOW went even further. It asked the lab to review samples collected in November 2015 to determine whether there were indications of some 525 pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, in the four water sources that serve Waimea and Kekaha residents.
The results? Once again, “no detectable levels of any of the 525 pesticides/herbicides, including chlorpyrifos.”
This information was sent to Hooser on March 29. But though he's been relentless in sounding the alarm about the island's “contamination,” he has yet to spread the good news that the water is really clean.
Which is why the JFFG recommendations are essentially useless, in terms of diffusing the conflict. Even when evidence is presented that everything's OK, the antis refuse to accept it.
Gary and his “fistee” followers have repeatedly claimed that westsiders are being harmed by chlorpyrifos. But it's not in the water and it's not in the air. So how are they possibly being exposed?
In this case, it cost DOW $800 and six employee hours to conduct the tests. The other testing recommendations are conservatively estimated to cost taxpayers some $3 million annually.
How much more and time and energy should be expended to ease fears that have been wildly fanned by the anti-GMO groups, to appease people who will never be satisfied, even (or especially) when the news is good?
We've been letting a small, but loud, group of people hold sway. Now it's time, in this election year, to hold people accountable for what they've done and said.