Maui County Council adopts the country’s toughest organic land policy

Waiehu Municipal Golf Course. Photo courtesy: Department of Parks and Recreation

Maui County Council voted unanimously this week to pass Bill 72, which only permits the use of pesticides and fertilizers compatible with organic systems and licensed under the National Organic Program of USDA on county properties.

“This legislation represents the most comprehensive restriction of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on public lands in a large county in the United States,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of the nonprofit Beyond Pesticides. “This represents a clear commitment to phase out pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers and an incredibly important effort to address the climate crisis, the collapse of biodiversity and the protection of the health of workers and workers. communities. “

The Maui County ordinance goes into effect in one year, with a few exceptions. It will come into effect in two years at the Ichiro “Iron” Maehara War Memorial Stadium and Baseball Complex, and in three years at the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course.

Autumn Ness, Hawaiian director of Beyond Pesticides’ organic land management program, was instrumental in passing this legislation. She said: “This bill has been in the works for at least six years. Maui has a very strong grassroots movement of people who have been organizing against the big chemical companies for years.

“As Monsanto’s research and development center, and after the great GMO [genetically modified organisms] moratorium vote initiative in 2014, Maui residents were made aware of pesticide issues, GE [genetically engineered] cultures and the influence of chemical companies in the agriculture and landscaping industry.

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This victory to restrict toxic chemicals on Maui County property is the result of an ever-growing popular movement organized around sustainable agriculture, from state legislation such as better declaration of pesticides to restricted use and the law banning chlorpyrifos in Hawai’i in 2018, and public lands without pesticides. . The same popular movement is working to standardize organic practices in all fields and to increase organic farming so that it occupies a greater place in the island’s economy, according to a press release from Beyond Pesticides. , based in Washington, DC.

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“We still have a lot of work to do,” Ness said. “Beyond Pesticides Hawai’i is committed to supporting Maui County departments in any way necessary and continuing our work with Kaua’i and Hawai’i counties as they work on pilot projects and legislation. that will protect residents from exposure to pesticides.

Maui County Council Member Kelly Takaya King, who chairs the Committee for Climate Action, Resilience and the Environment, said: “The Pesticides Ordinance is a big step forward in reducing pollution. chemical applications in our parks and around county facilities. While I fully understand the challenges of the agricultural sector, we need to take action where we can to reduce the harmful effects of pesticide residues where they can directly affect our residents – parks and ball fields in particular, but also in runoff which negatively impacts our reefs and natural marine habitats.

King added: “The ‘inconvenient truth’ is that many chemicals and materials (i.e., despite the economic interests that are now deeply invested in these products, we must come together for the good of all to rethink our” modern practices ”.

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