By Derrick DePledge
The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents the genetically modified organism industry, has taken exception to the way a GMO and pesticide regulatory bill was handled before a Kauai County Council committee earlier this month.
In a letter Tuesday to Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser, the bill's sponsor, the association complains that an unofficial meeting notice was provided on the Friday before the Monday hearing. The association also contends that the hearing agenda did not adequately describe the scope of the meeting.
While the association claims it found out about the hearing late, it was hardly a secret. The Garden Island published a story about the hearing on the Friday in question. The committee hearing also followed a marathon hearing before the council on Wednesday at the Kauai Veterans Center.
From Alicia Maluafiti, the association's executive director:
The late unofficial notification from the chair to a representative of the seed farm delegation, which took place after noon on the Friday prior to the Monday hearing, precluded the seed companies and other opponents of the bill from contacting expert testifiers, identifying which ones could be available, and arranging transportation, lodging and other logistical considerations. Yet the chair gave his own experts ample time to make all the necessary arrangements to ensure his panel of testifiers from the mainland would include a full complement of handpicked organizations with a track record of opposition to biotech agriculture and opposition to the use of pesticides on which modern commercial farming depends. This lack of notice was clearly discriminatory.
Had the hearing been properly noticed and adequate time provided to all parties to allow a reasonable period to prepare, the ostensible purpose of the August 5 hearing—to fully inform the members of the committee—could have been achieved in a way that would best serve the members of the committee, the council, the public and the legislative process.
The hearing notice only indicated there would be 18 minutes provided at the outset for public testimony before the committee went into executive session. There was nothing in the notice about subsequent briefing of the committee by experts and no indication that the focus of inquiry would be on the ostensible impacts of pesticides used by Kauai farmers. This type of obfuscation is reprehensible and has no place in the public hearing process.
Hooser said the association was given the same amount of time to prepare as other interest groups. "Cry me a river," the councilman said in an email.