Hawaiians At Increased Risk Of Pesticide Exposure From GMO Crops
Hawaiians have seen firsthand that people near agrichemical companies’ test plots of genetically engineered (GMO) crops are at increased risk of being exposed to toxic chemicals that drift off the fields. And they’re fighting back.
State and local representatives in Hawaii are working to pass laws to protect vulnerable communities from the harmful pesticides blanketing nearby GMO crops designed to be herbicide-tolerant.
In a recent article (Aug. 23) in The Guardian, journalist Christopher Pala wrote about the town of Waimea on the island of Kauai, downhill from some of the test plots, where a middle school and a hospital are less than 2,000 feet from a Syngenta test field. Pala noted that the companies are not required to disclose much about the chemicals they’re testing as they develop new varieties of herbicide-resistant crops.
In the contiguous 48 states, EWG analyses have shown that 3,200 elementary schools and 12,000 churches are located near fields where GMO corn and soybean are likely grown. And a report by the Center for Food Safety in May indicated that those numbers are probably underestimates, given the number of communities near GMO corn and soybean test plots in Hawaii.
The Center’s report found that agrichemical giants taking advantage of Hawaii’s extended growing season spray 17 times more pesticides on fields on the island of Kauai than on cornfields on the U.S. mainland.
Right now, Hawaiians are battling agrichemical companies at the county level, in the state house and in the courts over issues of pesticide disclosure, buffer zones and restrictions on GMO cultivation. Their efforts could be fruitless, however, if the U.S. Senate passes a bill – dubbed by opponents the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” or “DARK” Act – that could preempt any Hawaiian GMO laws that get on the books. If Hawaii or any other state were to pass a law requiring GMO foods to be labeled – as Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have done – the DARK Act, which has already passed the House, would block the state from implementing it.
One reason nine out of 10 consumers – regardless of political party, gender, education or race – want mandatory GMO labeling is the growing concern over the escalating amounts of toxic weed killers needed to grow the vast majority of GMO crops.
No matter where they shop, people should have the right to know which foods were made with GMOs, as consumers in 64 other countries already do.