It's not unusual for the state Legislature to be clueless, seeing as how it's susceptible to pressure —financial and otherwise — from special interest groups. But when the Civil Beat editorial board weighs in, I expect them to have at least some idea what they're talking about.
Unfortunately, the Civil Beat editorial board shows its gross ignorance in calling today for the Senate to pass SB 1037, which requires all farmers to disclose all their use of pesticides.
It's not that I have a problem with pesticide disclosure. It's just that I wonder why Civil Beat and some lawmakers think it's OK to target only farmers.
Especially when a pesticide study by the state Department of Healthfound that urban Oahu streams had the highest number of pesticides present.
But even then, “None of these levels present a risk to human health or the environment,” according to DOH toxicologist Fenix Grange.
So what is the problem, exactly?
And then there's the report from the Department of Ag confirming that in the past eight years, not a single episode of school evacuations was caused by agricultural pesticides. Instead, homeowners misapplying pesticides, and a turf company, were the culprits.
From their comfy perch in downtown Honolulu, it's easy for urban legislators and the Civil Beat editorial board to issue a dictate to farmers, to sanctimoniously term the bill a “modest proposal” and the “neighborly thing to do.”
They have no idea what the true cost of this legislation is to farmers. And I'm talking economically, in terms of complying with disclosure, and socially, in having to deal with the nuts who are gentrifying agricultural land and trying to shut down the farms in their midst.
Because the bill requires the land to be identified by address and tax map key, making every farmer the potential target of a nuisance lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Civil Beat and clueless lawmakers turn a blind eye to the pesticides used by termite treatment companies, pest control operators, government agencies and homeowners, who often apply these substances improperly.
Though that pesticide use occurs in densely populated urban areas, residential neighborhoods, roadsides, parks, schools, hospitals, golf courses and resorts frequented by large numbers of people, including keiki and kupuna, it's somehow OK, while the pesticides applied by farmers in rural areas are not.
Tell us, Civil Beat, why is it neighborly for a farmer to disclose pesticide use, but not a pest control company or your own parks and recreation department?
If the goal is to prevent exposure among sensitive persons, or reduce the overall use of pesticides, this bill does neither, because the disclosure is after-the-fact.
So what, then, is the purpose? I mean, other than to punish farmers — or more specifically, the seed companies.
Because Civil Beat, like many lawmakers, including Rep. Cynthia Thielen, have been suckered by the Center for Food Safety and other groups that are using the pesticide issue to advance their anti-GMO cause.
It's sad that Civil Beat hasn't used its money and reporting team to educate homeowners on pesticide use, or even explore that issue at all, seeing as how nearly all pesticide problems occur in the home. And even then, very few people are actually being "poisoned in paradise," despite what Rep. Thielen wrongly believes.
According to the Hawaii Poison Center:
Of the 4,800 human pesticide exposure calls, approximately 90% of the exposures occurred in a residence, 4.4% in the workplace and 1% in a school. The remaining 4% consisted of miscellaneous locations (i.e., other/unknown, public areas, health care facilities, and food service.)
At least 90 percent of the exposures caused no or minimal health effects. There were three deaths. None of the pesticide complaints were linked to atrazine exposures.
And according to the Department of Ag in its report to the Legislature:
As far as statewide pesticide complaints, there were a total of 293 between 2010 and 2013. Oahu had 127, Big Island 73, Maui 51 and Kauai 42. Less than half of the complaints are due to agricultural activities. For complaints involving potential atrazine exposure, atrazine was not detected in any environmental samples collected during this time period.
To spell it out, agriculture is not the problem. So why are legislators and Civil Beat going after farmers?
But then, as I said in the beginning, they don't have any idea what they're talking about.