County, Monsanto Sign Pesticide Agreement
Maui County and Monsanto signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last week that requires Monsanto to disclose information about pesticide use on a voluntary basis. Monsanto operates on both Maui and Molokai.
“Responsible use of pesticides is a concern for us all, especially for those of us who grew up on these islands when sugar cane and pineapples were our main exports,” said Mayor Arakawa. “There must be safeguards and a sharing of information, and I believe the AG Oversight Agreement [MOU] is a proactive step we needed to take….”
The MOU comes shortly after bills were passed on both Kauai and Hawaii Island involving restrictions on the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Kauai’s Bill 2491 forces agricultural companies to disclose when and where they spray pesticides, restrict spraying to a certain distance from public areas, and disclose what GMO crops they grow, according to Huffington Post. Hawaii Island’s recently-passed bill bans biotech companies from ever operating on the island. It also prohibits the production of new genetically altered crops not currently grown there.
Maui County’s MOU states that its purpose is to “establish a relationship and dialogue between Monsanto and [the county] regarding the agricultural practices and stewardship by Monsanto.”. It is intended to advance public knowledge and foster public dialogue regarding crop production, according to the document.
It calls for Monsanto to voluntarily report to the mayor’s office on an annual basis with information including a list of restricted-use pesticides and the quantities and acreage applied. It also requests a description of the practices undertaken to control airborne fugitive dust and soil conservation measures.
Among other concerns, some Molokai community members have expressed alarm at increasing “dust tornadoes” from Monsanto fields they believe to carry toxic chemicals used by the company. Monsanto Molokai did not return a request for comment on whether the MOU would change any of their operations or procedures.
Mercy Ritte of the MOM Hui, a Molokai organization that raises awareness about health-related concerns, expressed disappointment that the MOU offers no legal backing to mandate the requested information. She also said she is concerned that it addresses only restricted-use and not general-use pesticides.
“While restricted use pesticides are acutely toxic resulting in immediate harm, general use pesticides such as Roundup are chronically toxic, leading to long-term health harms we may not be aware of,” she said via email. “Finally, by signing this flawed agreement with Monsanto, Mayor Arakawa completely overlooked the voices of the people – we deserve the right to a fair hearing.”
The MOU states that Monsanto must strictly adhere to all federal and state pesticide-use requirements. It also calls for quarterly meetings between the two parties, as well as educational opportunities provided by Monsanto when requested by county officials.