Over the course of the past year, we have watched groups like Babes Against Biotech (BAB), The Center for Food Safety (CFS), and SHAKA do an interesting dance in Hawaii. The “Babes” have been shaking their…fists at the seed industry and its supposed environmental harm since 2012. In 2014 SHAKA introduced a ballot initiative targeting seed companies in Maui County. First they claimed it was about the GMO pollen causing all kinds of ailments. When they began realizing that the premier medical and scientific organizations endorse biotech, they changed their hula.
Suddenly it was all about the pesticides. “What could they be spraying? They’re DOUSING all of Maui in untested chemicals!”
Those in agriculture know this is a load of that stuff we spread on the field.
Restricted use pesticides (RUPs) are heavily regulated by the USDA and the EPA. They are restricted because there are safe handling practices that need to be followed during their application, and the powers that be would like to make sure these products are used by trained professionals. Just like you need to be a pharmacist to purchase and dispense medications, the government wants to make sure that RUPs are used safely. In order to handle or apply these products, an individual must take three days of classes with an exam on the third day. This requires many hours of study and it is quite common for students to not pass on the first try. This test is designed to be hard, to make sure the individual knows the material backwards and forwards. In order to maintain the license, once acquired, a day long continuing education class and follow-up quizzes are required every few years.
Now that we’ve dispensed with what “restricted” really means, let’s look at exactly how much pesticide Monsanto actually uses. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture has reported that the ENTIRE state uses 1.3 Million pounds per year.
Monsanto uses less than 1% of this amount.
This is who activists have chosen as the evil user of pesticides?
A company that uses less than 1% of the state’s RUPs.
Anyone feel like they’ve been duped yet?
CFS, BAB, and SHAKA have been working hard to get a variety of bills passed in the state legislature that will hurt farmers in many ways. HB1514 was one of these bills that would establish buffer zones around any land used by a school, daycare (adult and child), hospital, or waterway of any kind. On the surface, this may look like a reasonable request. In reality this would eat up significant portions of land for many farmers, if not all of their land. CFS, BAB, and SHAKA talk a big story about wanting to see Hawaii provide all its own food, but then do everything they can to hurt local growers. Larry Jefts, a grower that provides one million pounds of food per week for our islands, spoke of thousands of acres being pulled out of ag production due to this bill. How is this helping us reach our goals of not importing 90% of our food?
Tom Matsuda, Department of Ag Pesticide Branch, testified at a hearing on HB1514 regarding school evacuations due to possible pesticide exposure:
“We have gone back in our records to the year 2006 thru 2014. There were 16 incidents that had to do with school evacuations.
-10 were attributed to home owners applying a pesticide
-1 was a turf grower, nursery
-1 was a school custodian
-1 was attributed to a mulch pile
-3 we could not attribute to pesticide use
So in the last 8 years, 16 incidents, 10 attributed to home owners and none to the seed companies.”
CFS, BAB, SHAKA: I think we’ve found your next target – everyone that owns a home in Hawaii. Good luck with that. In the mean time, stop targeting the farmers that use these products responsibly. Let’s start looking for real solutions, like encouraging the development of plant varieties that fix their own nitrogen and fend off pests on their own. Decreasing our need for fertilizer and pesticide?
This would be REAL sustainability.