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The Kaua'i Cocktail: Why Residents of Hawai'i Are Outraged by GMO Farming on Kaua'i

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

WAIMEA, HAWAI'I - The island of Kaua'i, Hawai'i, has become Ground Zero in the intense political battle over genetically modified (GMO) crops in the United States. But the fight isn't just about the concerns over GMO technology. It's also about chemical pesticides.

The four transnational corporations that are experimenting with genetically engineered crops on Kaua'i have transformed part of the island into what could be one of the most toxic chemical environments in all of U.S. agriculture.

For the better part of two decades, Syngenta, BASF Plant Science, DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences have been drenching their test crops near this small town on the southwest coast of Kaua'i with some of the most dangerous synthetic pesticides in use in agriculture today, at an intensity that far surpasses the norm at most other American farms, an analysis of government pesticide databases shows. Residents of "Poison Valley"

Perhaps no one personifies the battle better than Klayton Kubo, who lives at the east end of Waimea, at the heart of what he calls "poison valley." He showed this reporter a brief video of himself cleaning the screen covering the window on the street side of his house. Clogged with reddish dirt similar in appearance to volcanic soils found throughout the island, the screen is his house's last line of defense against the dust. However, it blocks only the biggest chunks, and can do nothing to stop smaller pieces of grit, toxic vapors and chemical odors that appear to be emanating from test fields located just beyond the street and the Waimea River in front of his house.

Kubo began looking for answers to his questions about what's in the air some 15 years ago. More than once, he says, a DuPont representative came to his house only to lower his head and mutter that it's "against company policy" to reveal any information about activities on the test fields.

Kubo is among 150 of his neighbors who have joined a class action lawsuit against DuPont Pioneer, a subsidiary of DuPont that leases several thousand acres on Kaua'i. They are seeking an injunction against the use of chemicals that are suspected to be toxic. At the other end of town, the Waimea Canyon Middle School, a health clinic, and a veterans' hospital line up in front of another GMO test field operated by Syngenta.

Steady northeasterly trade winds averaging between 8 and 9 mph blow daily across the test fields and into town.

In two incidents in 2006 and 2008, students at the Waimea school were evacuated and about 60 were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Many people in town blamed the outbreak on blowing dust from the GMO test fields. The companies blamed nearby fields of stinkweed.   


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