Two Hawaii community groups have filed a civil-rights complaint against the state Department of Agriculture and Agribusiness Development Corporation for not doing enough to protect Native Hawaiians from pesticides sprayed on fields near schools, hospitals and homes.

Earthjustice, representing Moms On a Mission and Poai Wai Ola/West Kauai Watershed Alliance, sent the complaint Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency.

“If anyone began spraying toxic chemicals so that they drifted into homes and schools in one of Hawaii’s affluent neighborhoods, there would be outrage and it would be shut down,” Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said in a release. “But not on Kauai’s west side or on Molokai, because the Native Hawaiians there don’t have the political clout. It’s shameful and it’s against the law.”

Monsanto, a multi-billion dollar international seed company, leases some of this land on Molokai.
Monsanto, a multi-billion dollar international seed company, leases some of this land on Molokai. PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Earthjustice says the two state agencies receive federal funding, so they have an obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure their programs and activities do not discriminate against communities of color, including Native Hawaiians.

“I live in a community that is home to the largest population of pure blooded Native Hawaiian, native speakers in Hawaii, what many would consider an endangered race and a wealth of cultural knowledge,” said Kekaha resident Malia Chun, member of the MOM group, in the release.

“We also happen to be a community that is inundated daily by exposure to industrial use pesticides,” she said. “When you consider the danger of frequent, long-term exposure to industrial pesticides, some may consider this to be a form of genocide.”

Scott Enright, head of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, didn’t return a call for comment on Wednesday.

Read the complaint below.

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