On a visit to Hawaii a few months ago I was fortunate to meet with Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action and Center for Food Safety officials. I also met community activists who have campaigned long and hard to find out what pesticides are being used on the chemical companies’ open air experimental test fields and what impact they have on human health and on the environment.

It was great to see how much thought and energy everyone was putting into trying to rebuild a local food system on Hawaii, but it was also palpable that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision explicitly pre-empting counties from regulating matters having to do with pesticides or genetically engineered seeds had left everybody kind of winded.

But they were fighting back. I loved having the chance to get a glimpse of the community fight to protect public health. It was heartening to see how dedicated leaders with a conscience use the law to effect positive change. I met leaders like Gary Hooser, founder of HAPA (and former majority leader of the Hawaii Senate), Maui County Council member, Alika Atay, and other grassroots activists like Autumn Ness of the Center for Food Safety.

Back in London and on the other side of the globe, I got into a routine of getting up in the morning just in time to catch up with what had happened in Hawaii during the day. The House and later the Senate passing legislation to ban chlorpyrifos and introduce a “no spray zone” around schools had me jumping up and down for joy in my PJs.

A little later there was some brilliant news here in Europe, too: The European Union banned the use of neonicotinoids, a systemic insecticide that harms bees and other pollinators. Bayer-Monsanto scientists still argue that neonics don’t mess with bees’ brains and that the ban will have dire consequences for industrial agriculture (which they call “modern” farming). Fortunately, the EU put its trust in independent research provided by environmental groups and independent researchers from across Europe.

Since my visit to Hawaii I’ve learned to value European law and specifically, the precautionary principle. It basically means: if it is unclear whether something might do irreversible harm to humans or the environment, it cannot be approved. That’s why, with few exceptions, GE crops still cannot be grown in the EU.

In preparation for my visit to Hawaii I had met with George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety in Portland, Oregon. He was instrumental in the fight to curb the open air spraying of restricted use pesticides by Big Ag companies on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.

Speaking about Hawaii, George Kimbrell said: ‘The people there have a spiritual connection to their food that is very unique in America.”

He added: “To have them connected to our movement about food and about the environment – I think for us to succeed as a movement globally and nationally we have to have that, everywhere. To see that there is a seed of that in Hawaii, the way people think about taro, and the islands as their home and these companies as colonialists that they need to kick out and choose differently for themselves and have independence for their own agriculture and not import 70 percent of their food like they do, that’s a powerful thing and a hope.”

I look forward to news that Gov. David Ige has signed Senate Bill 3095. It will be one more reason to jump up for joy in my PJs. You rock, Hawaii!

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