Negative side to sugar harvesting not highlighted

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. recently mailed a letter to Maui residents applauding its cane burn notification program and claiming that it pumps $250 million into the local economy. What it does not mention is that the World Health Organization, the American Lung Association and many other credible, unbiased health organizations have identified air pollution as a major cause of cancers and disease. “Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health” (WHO Fact Sheet #313, updated 2011). The American Lung Association has specifically identified reducing agricultural burning as a strategy to improve public health.

Additionally, while HC&S’ sugar cane business clearly puts money into our economy, there are negatives the company fails to mention:

* negative impact on the health of people exposed to smoke and other particulate matter.

* lost productivity incurred by those missing work or school due asthma or other respiratory distress.

* added health care costs incurred to treat these and other conditions.

* impact on the natural beauty of the island, the primary product of which is tourism.

* negative impact on real property values located within pollution drift zones.

Making matters worse, HC&S is out of step with best practices in the sugar cane industry. While the ancient practice of crop burning is still used in some Third World countries, Brazil and Australia have embraced green harvesting; HC&S has not to the extent it can.

Mark Hyde