A $100,000 joint fact finding project intended to ground the Kauai GMO-pesticide debate in reality is set to begin “as early as practicable” next year.
It's coordinated by Peter Adler's ACCORD 3.0 Network — he previously did the Kauai feral cat study — with Kauai County and the state Department of Agriculture putting up the dough. It's being run as a pilot project that may have applications for other islands and issues — a consultant's dream.
It's also all that's left of Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 — the pesticide/GMO regulatory bill that was overturned by a federal judge, along with the provision for an Environmental and Public Health Impact Study (EPHIS). The joint fact finding (JFF) process will be done instead of the EPHIS.
According to a document that outlines the scope of the project:
Thus far, debates over pesticides and other related issues have been pursued primarily through litigation, legislative proposals, and political lobbying. Missing from the picture have been safe spaces where people with knowledge and goodwill who may disagree with each other can meet, review, discuss, interpret evidence and deliberate.
The JFF will provide a forum for rigorous consideration, evidence‐based debate, and collective fact-finding.
It goes on to state that the JFF group:
[W]ill undertake a broad examination of where GM and other production scale crops are grown on Kauai, the historic and current use of pesticides on Kauai, the prevalence of acute and chronic health conditions occurring on Kauai at levels that are above state- or nation-wide rates, and any evidence of environmental contamination that can reasonably and empirically be associated with the use of pesticides.
So does this mean they'll also be looking at pesticides on golf courses and elsewhere in assessing “environmental contamination?” And will all “production scale crops” — a rather vague term that presumably would include taro, and perhaps even big veggie growers — be scrutinized along with seed crops and coffee?
Anyway, the group will use the compiled data, as well as consultations with technical experts, to recommend priorities for future studies, define their scope, and propose methodologies to better monitor health or environmental impacts associated with pesticide use on Kauai.
The JFF group will not produce original research, but will collect, summarize and discuss existing evidence, preferably peer-reviewed studies.
At least nine persons will be chosen for the group, which will meet about eight times over the course of a year, with teleconferences in between. Candidates must be familiar with Kauai, and have “good backgrounds” in agriculture, environmental health, epidemiology, toxicology, biostatistic, medicine or land-based practices such as farming, fishing, hunting and gathering.
Persons with pro- or anti-GMO leanings will be allowed to serve, so long as they are “willing to examine data and evidence.” Members will be required to disclose financial or employment interests that could constitute a real or perceived conflict of interest. They also will be expected to “read, study and learn, exercise self‐restraint and respect in working groups, especially to those who may hold different views; do homework between meetings if needed and work toward the common goals of the project” — requirements that will quickly narrow the applicant pool.
Those who make it onto the group will have to sign a “Charter of Commitments” that outlines meeting protocols, requires “hard commitments to civility and confidentiality within the working group” and mandates “an open mind to review all pertinent and high quality evidence.”
Adler's consulting team will start by compiling a preliminary inventory of existing pertinent studies and interviewing 15-25 Kauai folks to identify people with expertise and specific pesticide questions for further study.
Regular updates on the group's work will be posted on a website that was still under construction today. At least two of its meetings will allow “respectful” public participation, including a Q&A session with technical and scientific experts and a discussion of the group's draft report.
In its final report, the group is expected to produce a summary and/or maps that identify Kauai lands in crop production, including GMO crops, which I'm not sure all farmers will be too crazy about.
It will also develop another summary of “the best available data on the incidence and prevalence of acute and chronic diseases and injuries on Kauai that may [emphasis added] be associated with pesticide use.” Now that's going to be a bit of a sticky wicket.
Besides maintaining decorum in the meetings, two big challenges in this project will be finding the right participants, and coming up with studies, peer-reviewed papers and other data sources that are Kauai-specific. There's lots of good data out there about the overall effects of various pesticides, but very little on how they are actually impacting humans and the environment on Kauai.