Discussion of health or environmental impacts of pesticide spraying on experimental GM crops was not allowed
A jury has found DuPont Pioneer guilty of dust-escape pollution as part of a "bellwether" case of 10 households from the community of Waimea on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
A video summarising the situation in Kauai and Hawaii in general is here:
1. DuPont Pioneer found guilty of dust pollution and trespassing in Kauai
2. Jury awards $500K to dust-weary residents on Kauai
DuPont Pioneer found guilty of dust pollution and trespassing on community of Waimea, Kauai
10 May 2015
On May 8, a jury found DuPont Pioneer guilty of dust-escape pollution as part of a "bellwether" case of 10 households from the community of Waimea on the island of Kauai, Hawaii over the period from 2009 to 2011.
During the proceedings the Judge narrowed the case to the following:
1) Timeline, Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2011 (while the community has been afflicted from 1998 to 2014)
2) Dust escapes alone (discussion about pollution from pesticide drift or GMO residues was NOT allowed)
3) The case was focused on Property damage and enjoyment of the property alone (i.e. discussion of health or environmental impacts was not allowed, nor do I assume loss in the value of the property from nearby environmental pollution)
4) The case narrowed down to whether DuPont Pioneer had followed Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management (GAAMP) practices. If Pioneer had followed GAAMP its practices could NOT be considered a nuisance, and thus Pioneer would NOT be considered liable for any adverse impacts on its neighbors. This refers to the "Right to Farm Act" which is enacted in perhaps all states in the USA – and mostly serves to protect legitimate farms from urban encroachment of existing ag areas (which was not the case in this situation). The Jury found that Pioneer did NOT follow GAAMP.
Below is a summary account of the verdict provided by Babes Against Biotech, which provided daily coverage throughout the proceedings. The media in general provided little or no coverage during the proceedings, even though at the beginning of the year the local daily predicted that GMOs would be one of the "hot" issues for the upcoming year.
BAB update from 8 May 2015:
“BREAKING: DuPont Pioneer guilty: At least $507,090 was awarded today to the first 15 of over 150 Waimea, Kauai residents who have been long suffering the pesticide laden dust coming off GMO test fields experimenting with chemicals.
“Over 150 residents near DuPont/Pioneer's test fields sued the multinational chemical company, for pesticide dust, health and environmental damages, however the Judge did not allow health or environmental claims. Through discovery in this lawsuit we have discovered at least 80 different pesticides being tested by just one of 5 chemical companies operating in Hawaii. We have discovered and plaintiff attorneys have brought to light the questionable practices and operations of DuPont/Pioneer. The case came down to only pesticide damages to property and loss of enjoyment of property for only 2009-2011, neglecting the fact that DuPont/Pioneer has been operating in that neighborhood around 15 years. The witnesses and plaintiffs were also not allowed to tell the jury that the dust is laden with heavy pesticides and experimental genetic material.
“The average settlement per person awarded damages was $33,806 per person or $56,343 per household. Since it was a bellwether trial, only 15 plaintiffs (making 10 households) took part in the trial portion, and the judgments awarded will be used in negotiations for a mass settlement for over 150 people. Though it does not address the health and environmental impacts, which are our greatest concern, today is a huge victory in the courts for all the people of Hawaii in Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu who are affected by the chemical test fields. This is the first class action lawsuit against the chemical companies regarding the pesticide dust and we doubt it will be the last. We do however, expect an appeal from the DuPont/Pioneer legal team who spent most of the case [engaging in] giggling exchanges and cracking quiet jokes to each other in the courtroom.
“If each of the at least 150 plaintiffs were awarded the average of $33,806, the settlement could total more than $5,000,000.00. The estimates estimated damages at least by loss of enjoyment of property $50/hour at least 2 hours per day. Other known chemical/GE test fields exist up and down the westside of Kauai, in Lihue, Kunia and Haleiwa on Oahu, throughout Molokai and in Kihei on Maui. Thousands of Hawaii households near the chemical test fields affected by the test fields, could signal larger problems in the courts for the chemical cartel in the future.
“These are the questions our court reporter and amazing cartoonist BAB Lauryn Rego and all the plaintiffs got answered today:
“Did Pioneer’s dust trespass? Yes.
“Was Pioneer’s conduct the legal cause in significantly interfering with each Plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of his or her property? Yes.
“Did the seriousness of harm to each Plaintiff outweigh the public benefit of Pioneers operation? Yes.
“To us, one of the greatest themes we received in the verdict is this: Did the seriousness of harm to each Plaintiff outweigh the public benefit of Pioneers operation? Yes.
“Yes. The seriousness of the harms to plaintiff in property damages along exceeded the public benefit of the chemical companies. This doesn't even include the health, and environmental damages that were not allowed in this particular case…”
Hector Valenzuela is Professor and Vegetable Crops Extension Specialist, Program on Small Farms, Organic Farming and Sustainable Agriculture, University of Hawaii at Manoa
2. Jury awards $500K to dust-weary residents on Kauai
By Rosemarie Bernardo
Honolulu Star Advertiser, May 9, 2015
A federal court jury awarded a total of $507,090 in damages to 15 Waimea residents who say they can’t enjoy their homes because of red dust from test fields operated by DuPont Pioneer on Kauai.
After a four-week trial, the seven-member jury reached its verdict Friday: $191,315 for property damage and $315,775 for loss of use and enjoyment of property.
The residents filed lawsuits in 2011 and 2012 against the seed company formerly called Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. in state court on Kauai, claiming the red dust from the company’s Waimea Research Center field caused extensive damage to their properties, but both cases were moved to federal court in Honolulu. One of the lawsuits named Gay & Robinson and Robinson Family Partners as defendants.
After the verdict, residents’ attorney Patrick Kyle Smith said he was elated for his clients. “We hope it makes things better in Waimea,” said Smith outside the courtroom.
DuPont Pioneer’s attorney, Clement Glynn, declined to comment on the verdict. But in an emailed statement, DuPont Pioneer spokeswoman Laurie Yoshida said company officials are disappointed in the verdict and will evaluate their options in the coming days.