Pesticide ‘Fact Finders’ Lack Facts to Back Proposals

Pesticide ‘Fact Finders’ Lack Facts to Back Proposals

Pesticide ‘Fact Finders’ Lack Facts to Back Proposals


/ June 1, 2016 /

The county-state Kauai Joint Fact Finding (JFF) group has finished its work and turned in a report that managed to satisfy no one.

Project manager Peter Adler predicted this a couple of months ago when he said, apparently only half joking, “This report is going to give people a whole bunch of new things to argue about.”

Despite having looked at dozens of reports, peer-reviewed science, government studies and raw anecdotes and bald suppositions, the JFF concluded that it could reach no conclusion at all.

“Currently there is not enough information to conclude if pesticide use by the seed companies plays any role in the health of Kauai`s residents,” the JFF said.

Was there a useful message in the JFF report?

Perhaps yes.

The JFF members betrayed themselves as true believers. Several of them have said that although they looked very hard and found nothing, they really believe there must be problems with pesticide use.

And they recommend that we be at least as heavily regulated as any state in the union.

They seek to test the blood and urine of pesticide applicators, field workers, and the blood and urine of school children.

They want to expand new regulatory oversight to “any farm that produces food products.” Yes, that includes organic farms, taro farmers, beekeepers and livestock operators.

They want to add new fees on all pesticide use by everybody.

They want the state Department of Health to monitor surface waters for pesticide contamination, and also want the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to conduct surface water monitoring at wetland habitats.

You might reasonably wonder at having two different organizations, funded by the same taxpayers, doing the same kind of testing.

They want the state Department of Health to conduct general air monitoring, and the state Department of Education to also conduct school air monitoring.

You might once again reasonably wonder at having two different organizations, funded by the same taxpayers doing the same kind of testing.

They also want testing of feral animals, birds and marine life.

The state has already agreed to do some new testing, monitoring, pesticideuse disclosure statewide and so on, but the JFF report seeks even more.

It is too late now to fix the document, but we are reminded of Slick Willie Sutton’s response to why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” The reverse, also true, is that you don’t rob places where the money isn’t.

Does it make sense to set up a whole list of mandatory, permanent, costly, sometimes duplicative government regulatory programs where there is no evidence of a problem?

Slick Willie would argue against that, I think.

Which is not to say that JFF did a bad job — just that the members missed a key piece of the logical puzzle when they leaped right from “no evidence” to “enact robust long-term monitoring and regulation.”

Let’s assume a driver approaches a mechanic and says, “My car’s broken. I mean, I actually don’t know for sure that it’s broken, but cars break down everywhere, so it might be broken, and I’m satisfied that it could be. Anyhow, please fix it.”

You can image the mechanic’s response: “Well, I can certainly do it, but this is going to be real expensive and it’s going to take a long time. And you’ll need to leave a large deposit.”

He’ll find something to fix, but it may not be the thing that was wrong.

Perhaps we should figure out exactly what the problem is before we try to solve it.

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