Kauai Mayor Bernard P. Carvahlo Jr. has vetoed Kauai’s groundbreaking GMO-related Bill 2491. The bill passed on October 16 after a nineteen-hour marathon hearing that lasted until 3:30 in the morning, not to mention months of protests and debates running up to the hearing.
But Mayor Carvahlo said in a press release that he felt he had no choice but to veto the bill on legal grounds. “I have always said I agree with the intent of this bill to provide for pesticide use disclosure, create meaningful buffer zones and conduct a study on the health and environmental issues relating to pesticide use on Kauai,” the mayor stated. “However, I believe strongly that this bill is legally flawed. That being the case, I had no choice but to veto.”
Prior to the county council vote that passed Bill 2491, nine Hawaii attorneys released a joint statement asserting that the bill was in fact legally sound: “We believe that Bill 2491 is sound, and the mere threat of a lawsuit by industry interests should not prevent the Council from taking action they believe is important to their community...We feel it would be unfortunate if the Council were to allow any well-financed opponent to determine public policy merely by threatening to sue.”
The well-financed opponents to which the attorneys referred include biotech giants like Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow and BASF. Bill 2491 would force agricultural companies to disclose when and where they spray pesticides, restrict spraying to a certain distance away from public areas, and disclose what genetically engineered crops they grow on Kauai.
During the hearing that preceded the county council vote, Mayor Carvahlo’s concerns had focused on the financial burden the bill would put on Kauai, estimating that $1.3 million would need to be appropriated by next year to implement different aspects of the bill. Attorneys for the biotech companies had said the bill unfairly targeted big agriculture and allowed for “illegal taking” of company property.
The veto can be overridden by the Kauai County Council with a minimum of five votes.