Thousands on Kauai marched the streets to show their support of the “Right to Know” Bill, a bill that would require agricultural companies working with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to disclose the chemicals they’re using and take extra steps to keep the chemicals contained.
It’s a volatile debate. One side is arguing business and development, the other side health and safety.
The bill is going to its second hearing Monday in front of the county’s Economic Development and Agricultural committee, where changes could be made before a final city council vote on the measure.
Roads were shut down as nearly 2,000 people marched in the streets from Vidinha Stadium to the Historic County Building, the place where the Right To Know Bill will go before a committee hearing Monday morning.
“We’re united. This is exactly what they didn’t want to happen,” a community activist at the Mana March said.
They rallied to send this message to the agricultural corporations that are reportedly testing new pesticides and GMO technologies on Kauai agricultural land.
“If you like poison, poison your own place. If you like experiment, experiment on your own family,” activists said.
Many said they have had enough and are concerned about the health effects the chemicals are having on their families, and the environmental impacts that the pesticides may have for generations to come.
The bill would require companies to disclose the types of pesticides they’re using, as well as create buffer zones around schools, hospitals, and other sensitive areas.
KHON2 tried to contact Monsanto, an agricultural giant in Hawaii, but they did not return our calls or emails on Sunday.
A Monsanto spokesperson has told us in the past that their $222 million business here in Hawaii is aimed at helping farmers be more productive with less, and that they work closely with the USDA, FDA, and EPA in their practices.
But councilmember Gary Hooser, who introduced the Right To Know Bill says those same companies have not been working with the community in their cries for change.
“Companies have come out really strong, told employees they will lose their jobs which is absolutely not true. They’ve made attacks on my integrity and my motivation,” councilmember Hooser said.
Leaving many more motivated to get something done.
“Overall, no other county has the impacts we’re having. We can’t expect the state or federal government to come riding in their white horse to save us,” councilmember Hooser said.
Another county council member says this is an issue that needs to be addressed at the state level, not the county level.
And questions remain about just how much authority the county has to make such changes.