Mayor: Monsanto promises safety

Mayor Alan Arakawa has signed a memorandum of understanding with Monsanto, obtaining assurances from the bioengineering company that it will engage in safe practices involving restricted-use pesticides, according to a Maui County announcement.

The agreement comes in the wake of bills passed in Kauai and Hawaii counties that involve restrictions on pesticide use. Monsanto has farms on Maui and Molokai.

The announcement says the county approached Monsanto to require disclosure of its restricted-use pesticides and all information about related practices.

Saying the company has “readily complied” and signed the agreement this month, the announcement said Monsanto must:

* Disclose details on the restricted-use pesticides that are being used here, including the types, amounts used and number of acres treated.

* Provide information about stewardship measures related to pesticide technologies, fugitive dust and soil erosion.

* Strictly adhere to all federal and state pesticide-use requirements.

* Meet quarterly with Maui County regarding the use of pesticides and other issues the community may have.

In the announcement, Arakawa said the agreement will help provide much-needed information to the public without putting financial burdens on taxpayers or leaving the county vulnerable to costly lawsuits.

“Responsible use of pesticides is a concern for us all, especially for those of us who grew up on these islands when sugar cane and pineapples were our main exports,” the mayor said. “There must be safeguards and a sharing of information, and I believe the ag oversight agreement is a proactive step we needed to take in providing both for our community.”

The county also is working on a similar memorandum of understanding with Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., the announcement said.

Monsanto has come under fire recently from activists opposed to genetically modified seeds.

In May, a March Against Monsanto drew more than 1,000 people to Central Maui. They rallied to call attention to what they say are the health risks of genetically modified crops and their belief that such products should be labeled as a Monsanto warning for consumers.

The protesters waved anti-Monsanto signs and walked from War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku to Hoaloha Park in Kahului.

Meanwhile, Monsanto maintained that the company’s genetically engineered crops are safe.