Kauai’s bill 2491 goes to committee

Ikaika M Hussey

Really thoughtful, compassionate writing by Joan Conrow at Kauai Eclectic about the GMO and pesticide debate on Kauai, which were animated in last Wednesday’s county council hearing on bill 2491. Conrow reported on Monday’s county council committee meeting:

I was especially struck by the very different experiences that people are having. For example, a Waimea Valley mom said she hasn’t opened the window in her kids’ bedroom for four years because of fears about pesticide dust, and won’t let her children linger in the bubble bath because she’s worried about what’s in the water. Contrast that to the lady who said she worked in the fields through two pregnancies and delivered healthy children, and the man who said he brought his days-old child to “the farm.”

This observation is very useful as well:

It also became evident pretty quickly that virtually all of those who spoke against the bill actually work in agriculture — many are from multi-generational farm families — whereas the majority of those who support the bill may at best maintain home gardens. Even though you may oppose pesticide use and conventional farming practices, I think you do have to concede that the people who are doing it probably know more about it than those of us who aren’t.

But i do have one quarrel. Conrow:

One eyebrow-raiser came when Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked a field worker how much she was paid. When the woman demurred, JoAnn said she hoped company officials would provide that information. What has that got to do with this bill, and is it really the Council’s kuleana to scrutinize the pay of private workers?

I understand (I think) why Yukimura asked about wages. It matters, socioeconomically, whether the new biotech plantations are paying low, old plantation wages, or the kinds of wages we associate with high-tech industry. That, after all, is how the county is seeing these jobs. The island’s economic development plan describes a “High-Technology Cluster:”

The High Technology Cluster includes firms in information technology, life sciences, ocean sciences, digital media, and related service industries. Kaua`i firms in the cluster supported an estimated 406 jobs in 2002, comprising just under 2.0% of total non-government employment.

Wages, health, environment – those are all important considerations before the council as it evaluates the measure.

Via Kauai Eclectic »