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NEWS FROM DISTRICT 9 COUNTY COUNCILWOMAN MARGARET WILLE

My GMO ban legislation Bill 113 passed and was signed into law by Mayor Kenoi on Dec. 5. This law prohibits the open-air cultivation of genetically engineered crops and plants, while “grandfathering” in the papaya industry and others already engaged in the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. In passing this law, we charted a new direction for agriculture on this island – one that moves us in the direction of eco-friendly community owned farms and curbs the spread of agro-chemical industry practices that devastate and contaminate non-genetically engineered farms and neighboring properties and waterways.

The companion Ad Hoc “GMO” Committee legislation, Communication 394, did not pass. This follow-up legislation had been suggested by council members and by members of the public on both sides of the issue. Given that the mayor intends to do a yearlong study of GMO related concerns, the general sense of the council was to let the dust settle and watch what the Mayor does. I withdrew my motion in support of this communication so that, if needed, it can be reintroduced at a later date.

Councilmember Brenda Ford’s “anti-GMO” Bill 109 is still pending before the Council and likely to be heard at the Jan. 7 council committee meeting, or otherwise later in January. Bill 109 was a stronger prohibition against growing genetically engineered crops or plants. This Bill provides an opportunity for further discussion but is not expected to pass.

On the state legislative front, the big issue for Hawaii County and its right to legislate with regard to GMOs will be Preemption. The issue here is whether state legislators will pass a state law to nullify the recently enacted Hawaii County and Kauai County laws regulating genetically engineered agricultural practices and/or regulating associated very toxic pesticides. To date all efforts to regulate GMOs at the state or federal level have stalled, and instead there was a substantial push to pass legislation to insulate the agro-chemical corporations from any executive, legislative, or judicial “interference” with their GMO operations here in Hawaii.

Resolution 140

Resolution 140, re Kohala Kai residential subdivision’s proposed grant of pedestrian easements, was heard on Dec. 17, and is expected to be back before the Council in late January. The proposed easement grant would provide public access along the Kohala coast makai of Kohala Estates - north of Kawaihae Harbor and just south of Keawewai Gulch. The Kohala Kai luxury home development contains seven already approved oceanfront lots, with more lots not yet approved. The primary concern here is the Planning Department approved a shoreline trail that in places is difficult and relatively unsafe, rather than designating the parallel mauka-located improved pathway on the historic Ala Loa trail corridor, as requested by the National Park Service and North and South Community Development Plan Action Committee members. I will meet with those concerned on Jan. 11 to see what can be done to resolve this situation. Location and time yet to be decided.

Bee Presentation

Also heard by the Council on Dec. 17 was my Communication 507, a bee presentation by Danielle Downey, apiculture specialist for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. She discussed the importance of our unique island bee and honey industry, current significant threats to our island pollinators; and what services are available to beekeepers through the Department of Agriculture. She stressed the serious decline in our bee pollinator population and how we can all play an important role in improving the health of our island bee population by increasing pollinator habitat at our homes and farms, and curbing our use of pesticides — which are generally toxic to pollinators.

Margaret Wille, is councilwoman for Hawaii County Council District 9, North and South Kohala. To reach Wille, call 887-2043 or email mwille@co.hawaii.hi.us.