By Christopher Pala – The Ecologist, 4 November 2015
Hawaii has got everything, writes Christopher Pala, and not just for holidaymakers. It’s also the perfect place for biotech companies to develop GMO corn varieties and spray them with toxic agrochemicals. People are getting sprayed too – and doctors report high rates of birth defects. But grassroots efforts to restrict the use of pesticides have twice been over-ruled by state courts.
Tammy Brehio stood on the back balcony of her home in Kihei on the island of Maui and pointed to a brown field a few hundred yards away.
“That’s where they spray the pesticides, even when the wind is blowing directly at us”, said the 40-year-old year mother of three small children. “Ever since we moved here, we all have sore throats and we cough all the time.”
She and a neighbour, who declined to be identified because he works for an agricultural company and feared losing his job, said the spraying often takes place at night. “It wakes me up, it smells really strong and it’s hard to breathe”, Brehio said.
“We do not apply pesticides at night”, said Monica Ivey, the spokeswoman for Monsanto, which grows genetically modified corn on the field. “Monsanto complies with all federal and state laws that govern responsible pesticide use.”
Whether or not the companies respect these laws, which forbid allowing pesticides sprayed on a field to drift beyond it, has become one of the biggest controversies in Hawaii in the past few years.