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BLOG: Sen. Green Takes Different Tack on Roundup

March 11, 2014, 6:01 PM HST
* Updated March 12, 10:17 AM
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After his earlier legislative attempts to ban the use of Roundup failed, a Big Island senator is taking a different approach.

Sen. Josh Green announced Monday that the Committee on Health which he chairs will hold an “informational briefing” Friday on the use of the chemical herbicide.

“The goal of this informational briefing is to determine if the use of Roundup by state and local agencies is safe and necessary, and if everything possible is being done to reduce potentially harmful exposure to our land, water and people,” Green said in a press release.

Green said he has been receiving reports “from around the state” from people disturbed by the use of Roundup, also known as glyphosate, by local and state road crews.

“People are expressing concern that this chemical is being used in an excessive and unnecessary way, and may be hazardous to human health and to the environment,” he said.

Those “invited” to participate Friday include state Health Director Dr. Linda Rosen; the directors of the state departments of Transportation and Accounting and General Services; the district health officers from Maui, Kauai and the Big Island; and the heads of the departments of parks and recreation from each county.

Also invited is Andrea Rosanoff, director of research and outreach for the Center for Magnesium Education & Research.

Rosanoff is co-author of “The Magnesium Factor,” a book which claims magnesium is essential to preventing various diseases.

Some researchers say glyphosate immobilizes magnesium in the soil and in the process makes plants less nutritious.

Friday’s meeting looks to have a full agenda.

The press release said the meeting is designed to collect a full report “on all use of Roundup/glyphosate statewide by state, county and city departments and agencies to determine whether all appropriate regulations, codes, safety measures and guidelines are being fully observed in its use.”

Its purpose is also to receive information from “environmental and health experts on any potential hazardous effects of Roundup/glyphosate use on the environment and human health” and to explore possible alternatives to glyphosate.

Friday’s meeting appears to have much the same mission as a bill proposed this session by Green and two other senators.

That measure, Senate Bill 2140, would have established a “glyphosate working group” to research and identify any health and safety concerns associated with its use and to identify “safe alternatives” to the herbicide.

It also would have placed a five-year ban on the sale or use of Roundup in Hawaii.

SB 2140 failed to gain any support and died after not being scheduled for hearings by the three committees to which it was referred.

That was not the first attempt by Green, an emergency room physician who represents parts of Kona and Ka`u, to regulate the use of glyphosate.

He was among four co-sponsors, along with Puna Sen. Russell Ruderman, of two bills introduced in 2013 aimed at the herbicide.

Senate Bill 648 would have prevented the use of glyphosate for “cosmetic” applications, but would have allowed it for agricultural use. Senate Bill 649 would have banned its use in the state entirely.

Neither bill received a hearing.

However, a significant amount of written testimony was submitted on both measures, nearly all of it in opposition.

Those testifying against the ban included the state Department of Agriculture, which said that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that glyphosate is safe if used according to directions.

“Glyphosate, the active ingredient in a number of pesticide products, is rated by EPA as among the least dangerous in comparison to other herbicides and pesticides,” said the testimony from then-Director Russell Kokubun.

William Aila Jr., head of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, requested that if a glyphosate ban was enacted that state agencies be exempted.

“Glyphosate is used to control unwanted and invasive plants across the State of Hawai‘i, including in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, and is an important conservation tool,” Aila wrote.

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