Monday, March 30, 2015

Musings: Disclosure is Dead

Was it really “fierce opposition” from agriculture that killed Hawaii's proposed pesticide disclosure law, Senate Bill 1037, as Civil Beat claims today?

Or did key legislators appropriately recognize the bill's fatal flaw — namely, the way it targeted only agriculture, while ignoring all other users, including the termite treatment companies that apply far more restricted use pesticides than farmers, and in residential neighborhoods?

Though Civil Beat's Anita Hofschneider holds up California as a model — never a popular approach in Hawaii — she's well into the story before revealing that the Golden State law goes beyond farms and requires disclosure of “pesticides applied to parks, golf courses, cemeteries, pastures and along roads. The main exceptions are home and garden use and most industrial and institutional purposes.”

And that's been the primary criticism that I and many others leveled against SB 1037 — it focused only on ag because it was pushed by anti-GMO activists who want to drive those crops out of Hawaii. In short, it was yet another bid to kill biotech, under the disingenuous guise of protecting health.

While Anita claims in her first paragraph that the bill's demise “essentially [ensures] that the public won’t be able to find out details about what pesticides are being sprayed in the state and where,” she later acknowledges that Kauai seed companies voluntarily disclose their pesticide use.

And it took a reader in comments to point out that detailed pesticide use information is indeed collected by the state at time of sale. In short, the data is already available to conduct a meaningful analysis of possible health risks to rural residents, but not so easily available that it can be used to harass farmers.

What I found especially amusing was the comment from Ashley Lukens of the Center for Food Safety, who said the withholding of data on pesticide use takes concerns “to the level of hysteria.”

No, Ashley, it wasn't the withholding of data but the relentless fear-mongering by CFS and other anti-GMO groups that took concerns to the level of hysteria. Because folks weren't freaking out until you and the other activists fanned the fire.

And while Kauai pediatrician Jim Raelson is correct to say “there’s every reason to believe that [pesticides used in westside seed fields] have a potential of causing problems,” that doesn't mean they actually are.

We all know that pesticides are dangerous, but we have yet to see anything indicating they are migrating off site, much less harming human health. In fact, the Waimea residents suing DuPont-Pioneer were forced to scale back their claims to nuisance only, because their attorneys couldn't establish there were harmful levels of pesticides in the dust.

Now that pesticide disclosure and anti-farming/anti-GMO bills appear dead for the session in the Lege, perhaps we can spend the next year gathering some meaningful data through the Joint Fact Finding Group and various studies. That way, we can determine if legislation is needed and if so, what makes sense, rather than cater to the agenda of anti-GMO activists and their pandering politicians.


Lorie said...

Well said...Loved your quote on Ashley, as f she is innocent in the fear mongering.

Luke Kambic said...

I like to think that more information is always better in a democracy, as long as people have the background knowledge to interpret it. But the problem goes deeper than that. It's becoming almost impossible to have a public debate that involves weighing risks and benefits. Too many people are so sheltered and comfortable that *any* perceived risk is unacceptable to them.

I don't know if it'll do any good, but it will be a terrific breath of fresh air to hear the thoughts of the expert groups.

Anonymous said...

I have trouble with only agriculture being the focus when it has been shown that urban uses are even more toxxxic along with golf courses, termiting of the houses, the 1 time a month all the visitor units get directly sprayed with Restricted Use Chemicals, and all the vacant agriculture lands on the east side og Kauai.Why focus only on the seed companies?

Anonymous said...

We desperately need genetic engineering to insert some of Joan's wisdom, common sense, and compassion into the new wave of activists out to "save" Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

"That's how it's done in California."

If I had dime for every time I heard that. CA is such a hot mess, it's a wonder that anyone looks up to it.

Anonymous said...

Don't expect the Joint Fact Finding Group to come up with any significant findings. They are doing an extended literature review of pesticides ( which I expect to show that pesticides are harmful if you exposed to too much (either in an acute exposure or low levels over extended periods [risk = dose x time])and that studies done in other locales show that if you live near the fields the increase of certain disease processes increase - all that has been proven elsewhere). They are not doing any epidemiological studies specific to Kauai nor any environmental studies that will show the harm to our soils and ecology. So, the best we can hope for is recommendations suggesting specific studies that should be done around areas of concern. Can I get my 100 grand now?

Anonymous said...

After reading the comments posted after the Civil Beat article, I am amazed at the level of scientific illiteracy and critical thinking, and their skewed interpretation of reality, among those who get all of their information from Teh Google.

Anonymous said...

Google is a search engine. Where do you get your information ?

Anonymous said...

@6:08 AM, I use search engines to find websites that publish scientificially based research, reasoned discourse that looks at the evidence & then reaches conclusions; instead of going to websites funded by industry associations through non-profits in order to disseminate misinformation to demonize industries and technologies that they perceive as threatening their market share.