The state Department of Agriculture and Kauai County are paying a consultant $100,000 to examine the possible health and environmental effects of pesticide use on genetically modified crops.

The joint fact-finding process, directed by Honolulu planner and mediator Peter Adler, is expected to start in January and be completed within a year.

“This is an important effort that could be used in other counties to address both the controversial and divisive issues surrounding pesticides and the cultivation of genetically modified crops, as well as other science-intensive political questions,” Hawaii Board of Agriculture Chairman Scott Enright said in a news release Tuesday.

PRITCHETT GMO debate

The state and Kauai County are funding a study to determine the effects of pesticide use on GMO crops on the Garden Isle.

John Pritchett/Civil Beat

A federal judge in August invalidated Kauai’s law requiring biotechnology companies to disclose more information about the pesticides they spray on their GMO crops and create a buffer zone around schools and certain other public areas.

The same judge, Barry Kurren, dealt a similar hand to the Big Island last month, invalidating Hawaii County’s partial ban on growing genetically modified crops.

Meanwhile, Kurren granted a temporary injunction on Nov. 14 that puts the brakes on Maui County’s new law that would have placed a moratorium on genetically modified farming until it’s deemed safe by the County Council.

That injunction was in effect until Friday, but the county has since agreed to put off enforcing the ban until March 31 to give the court time to decide whether the ordinance is legal. Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, along with many other groups, filed the lawsuit that led to the injunction.

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who vetoed Kauai’s GMO law only to see it overridden, applauded the state for taking the lead on the project.

“For the past year we’ve been working with the state and the seed companies to hold all entities accountable for addressing these issues,” he said in the release. “With the help of our state legislative delegation, we have disclosure and buffer zones through the Good Neighbor Program. Now, we’re moving toward the environmental public health impact study and this effort shows the county can support the state as it carries out its legal responsibilities.”

Adler said the overall goals of the joint fact-finding process are to illuminate the factual assumptions behind a controversy, map areas of factual agreement that all parties can respect, put those areas in a proper context, and help inform policy making.

“Sorting out facts — what we know and can say with reasonable confidence, what we don’t know, and what we might reasonably need to know in the future — is challenging, but not impossible,” he said in the release.

Kauai County and the Department of Agriculture are splitting the cost of the project.

For more details, read Adler’s report about the study group below.

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