After five days in Basel Switzerland, where chemical corporations were birthed, I prepare to return home with a greater understanding of the situation we face in Hawaii and across the world.

We have learned first hand the impacts that chemical industries have had here in Switzerland, both to the environment and their people.

We have heard from historians and scientists about the chemical waste leaked from these corporations into their rivers and air. We have learned that the chemical plants that created DDT and their associated landfills are still contaminating the rivers here.  In fact, DDT still leaks from chemical landfills 40 years after it was banned in Switzerland and is still found in both the Rhine River and the breast milk of mothers here.

Pesticide spraying

The Swiss were appalled by what chemical companies are doing to stop efforts to force more disclosure of what’s being sprayed and when.

We have met with specialists, historians, politicians, unions, university students and concerned citizens. We have gained an understanding of the experiences and reasons GE experiments and pesticides like Atrazine, Paraquat, Permethrin, Methomyl, Triazine and others sprayed on Kauai are not approved for use here in Switzerland. Despite Syngenta being a Swiss-based corporation, these products of theirs are banned in their home country, and for good reason.

We came to share our story and to gain the support of members of government and the Swiss people, and we have done so.  Political leaders have been appalled to hear our story, to know how hard we have fought, and to know that we even succeeded in passing government initiatives to obtain disclosure, buffers and studies — only to be sued by Syngenta and the “chemical cartel.” They are appalled to know that we are only asking for disclosure, so we can know when to shut our windows. The Swiss have repeatedly expressed their disgust that we would even need to consider this.

When we present the list of chemicals applied by Syngenta, and others, you can see the surprise and the concern. It is obvious that the Swiss people and the science are clear, and their minds have been made. These chemicals are damaging to life, of all kinds, and there are legitimate reasons to avoid their use in open-air applications.

We have been reached out to, been given heartfelt apologies and sympathy that the home that we love has became the research center for these chemical corporations, which leave destruction and pollution in their wake. We have had political leaders, organizers and students reach out with the desire to help advance our efforts. Official requests have been made to Syngenta, by the Swiss government here, that they abandon their lawsuit, abide by our laws and provide better protections for our people.

It has been an honor and an amazing experience engaging the people here, sharing our story, learning about theirs and gaining more inspiration about how we move forward as a collective worldwide community to better the health and life of our environment and world.

About the Author

  • Fern Rosenstiel
    Fern Rosenstiel has a bachelor's degree in science and majors in marine biology, wildlife management and environmental science. Fern worked on the development and passing of Ordinance 960. She is one of the directors of 'Ohana O Kaua'i, and one of the organizers for the 2013 Kauai marches to bring attention to the impacts associated with GE pesticide experimentation in Hawaii.