by Andrew Walden
Dengue is here. Zika is coming. But dozens of Hawaii County organic farmers are refusing access to State and County mosquito-eradication workers.
State Department of Health workers tell the Associated Press they have been allowed to spray only 25% of properties in the Big Island South Kona district at the heart of the Dengue outbreak. Mosquito eradication protocols call for 80% to be sprayed. The US Center for Disease Control in December cited “insurmountable obstacles” to spraying including “homeowner reluctance (many organic farms in the area and general opposition to chemicals)….”
One South Kona organic farmer whose neighbors have been infected with dengue explains his refusal to allow spraying on his 3 acre farm, "It's not organic, and that would cancel our certification for a period of three years. That might well put us out of business."
But, interviewed by Hawai’i Free Press, USDA spokesperson Brian K. Mabry says that is not the case. From his office in Washington, DC, Mabry says, “in instances where an emergency pest treatment is applied due to a public health concern, the certification status is not affected.” Farmers would still be able to sell their crop but, “any food that had contact with a prohibited substance under the National Organic Program cannot be labeled or sold as organic when it is harvested.”
The National Organic Program carves out this exemption specifically for pest or disease-related spraying or other treatments under a Federal or State Declaration of Emergency.
Hawaii Governor David Ige declared Dengue to be a State-level emergency on February 12, 2016. Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi declared a County-level emergency on February 8, 2016.