The Departments of Health and Agriculture launched an investigation into whether pesticides are being used incorrectly at several Thai and Sweet Basil farms in Kunia and Ewa on Oahu.
The answer was yes: After testing 10 basil samples from 5 produce distributors, 7 of the 10 samples tested positive for the presence of one or more pesticides that are not authorized for use on basil.
Additional testing at Oahu farms showed four of the farms were using at least one pesticide that is not approved for application on basil.
The farms where positive results turned up include Green Produce Farms, Luo’s Plantation, S & Z Farm and Fat Law’s Farm.
The distributors working with these farms include Wong’s Produce, D. Otani Produce, Y. Fukunaga, Manson Products and Armstrong Produce.
The basil cannot be sold, according to Department of Health spokesperson Gary Gill.
State and federal authorities have now launched a joint investigation, education and enforcement effort to determine how widespread the problem is and to stop farmers from using the illegal pesticides.
The University of Hawaii and Department of Agriculture are working together to expand their educational outreach to farmers and students who will be working in the agriculture industry.
The announcement made today follows an April 20 report from the Department of Health that Fat Law Farm, Hawaii’s largest basil grower, was also using illegal pesticides on its 29 acres of basil crops.
The basil industry is one of Hawaii’s most lucrative. Gill estimates local basil farmers sell some $5 million in produce each year and export between 80 percent and 90 percent.
Gill said there is no public health threat. Tom Matsuda, who heads the Department of Agriculture Pesticides Branch, said his department is concerned about the safety of the workers who are spraying the crops, and part of the outreach includes ensuring they are wearing protective gear and clothing and know how to apply the pesticides properly.
We’ll have a full report on this later today in Hawaii Reporter.