Login
"The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination."
- John Scharr
  You are here:  ProgramsPublic Policy InitiativesMaine Board of Pesticides Control ReportsBPC – Dec. 1998   


Board of Pesticides Control Meeting, December 1998

BPC Addresses Genetic Engineering, Pesticide Use Reduction
Indoor Pesticide Use Advisory Committee
MOFGA Critiques BPC Report
Novartis Promotional Questioned
Environmental Risk Committee Needed?
Resistance Management Committee
Former Board Member Criticized


BPC Addresses Genetic Engineering, Pesticide Use Reduction

At its December 18 meeting in Augusta – attended by Alan Lewis, Carol Eckert, Richard Storch and Andrew Berry – the BPC staff reviewed the commercial applicator licensing process. Certification and licensing specialist Gary Fish explained that when a person asks about becoming licensed, he or she receives an application for the commercial applicator exam, a brochure outlining the process of certification and licensing, a cover letter and a copy of Chapter 31. This information tells people that they need to be a master applicator unless they are applying for pet grooming, post-harvest treatments or applying antifouling paints. Next, an application is sent to the Board. The applicant receives study materials from the University of Maine Pest Management Office (the BPC supplies study materials for the Master’s level exam), then takes various tests: A core exam for either agricultural or non-agricultural applications; at least one category exam (household pests, pests of animals …), an aerial applicator’s exam if desired (for agricultural applications, forestry, or demonstration and research), and a Master’s Level written and oral exam, if required.

If the applicant receives a grade of 80% or better and passes the oral exam, he or she can apply for a license, which involves completing an application form, possibly showing evidence of insurance, and possibly obtaining a separate spray contracting firm license, which helps assign liability to the company as well as the applicant. Commercial licenses are renewed annually, while private applicator licenses are good for three years. Continuing education credits are required after licenses are granted.

Two commercial applicators in the audience told the Board of their concern that applicants for the Master’s License didn’t require any training or education, and that HUD recently started requiring that people doing wood inspections in Cumberland and York Counties be licensed for inspecting for particular pests, such as termites, carpenter ants, powder post beetles and carpenter bees. The applicators believe that the state’s requirement that someone could just read a book and take an exam, then get a license without having had any experience in the field, is insufficient. Fish responded that during the oral exam, the examiner gained an understanding of an applicant’s qualifications. No action was taken on this matter, since the agenda item was presented for informational purposes only.

Top

Indoor Pesticide Use Advisory Committee

In October, the Board directed the staff to contact people who might be willing to meet and develop either a proposed regulation or guideline regarding indoor applications of pesticides. At the December meeting, the Board established three categories of people – pest control operators/restaurant/hotel owners; tenants/multiple chemically sensitive people/other concerned individuals; and schools/other public institutions. Each category would have five representatives. Sharon Tisher, president of MOFGA, has volunteered to serve in the second category. The Board directed staff toxicologist LeBelle Hicks to contact Tisher and several others who had volunteered or seemed like good candidates.

Top

MOFGA Critiques BPC Report

The Board discussed a letter that Sharon Tisher submitted, critiquing its report to the Maine Legislature, questioning why the department’s Strategic Plan made no specific mention of reducing reliance on pesticides, and asking how MOFGA might help the Board accomplish the goals of the 1997 Act to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides. Staff director Bob Batteese said that Tisher was “conveniently forgetting” that the Legislature gutted the pesticide reduction bill. “We’d be crucified by the agricultural establishment if we put [a quantitative objective] in” the Strategic Plan, he said. He also questioned the wisdom of reducing the amount of low-toxicity materials used if they were replaced with more toxic materials.

Tisher’s letter also cited deficiencies in the Board’s annual report of pesticide sales in Maine. Because the data were not grouped according to active ingredients, and because amounts of active ingredients weren’t given or tabulated, the report had no “bottom line” and could not be used to compare sales with those of previous or subsequent years. In effect, the report is useless.

Batteese said that the Board does not have the staff to work on the report. He pointed out that reports made in earlier years, when “bottom lines” were given, were completed by having former staff member Tammy Gould look at 40 or so chemicals and analyze data on them by hand. The current report lists more than 600 active ingredients, and many products (especially those used by homeowners) have two or three active ingredients in the formula. Batteese is trying to find a computer program that can convert the data to pounds of active ingredient, but he said that ‘’the real problem is [not having] a staff person with the time to manipulate the data.” He also questioned how valuable nonagricultural data would be, and he pointed out that the report did not account for shipments into the state by out-of-state suppliers or by mail order catalogs.

Fish suggested that reports from users might be more valuable than those from dealers. Eckert said that part of the issue is what constitutes pesticide use reduction – volume, weight, toxicity? Hicks cited Charles Benbrook’s work and work done at the University of Wisconsin on potatoes, both of which tackle this issue. Board chair Alan Lewis suggested that part of the problem is that “we’re trying to measure everything.” He wondered if a narrower focus on a few select areas might help determine trends in pesticide use in Maine. Hicks said that that was possible, but that you would still need a database for future comparisons. Batteese agreed that knowing trends in select areas “would be a good thing to have in our back pocket when we’re called before the Agriculture Committee,” but added that “we still have to straighten out who gives us the data in the first place.” The Board decided to continue discussing this issue at its planning session in February.

Top

Novartis Promotional Questioned

Next the Board considered a letter submitted by this writer concerning a promotional brochure that her nursery received from Novartis chemical company. The brochure advertising Factor herbicide showed a nearly bare field on the cover (no green manures or cover crops were growing among the rows of tall, single-stemmed trees), an unecological way to raise nursery stock. More surprising, however, was the offer of incentives – gift certificates from L.L. Bean or Office Depot – to buyers. The more herbicide that was purchased, the greater the value of the gift certificate. I believed that the promotion violated Maine’s Act to Minimize Reliance on Pesticides by promoting their increased use. When I pointed this out to Jolene McGowan in L.L. Bean’s Public Affairs Department, she said that L.L. Bean had no control over how the certificates were used. I suggested to the Board that L.L. Bean and Office Depot should take more control over how their gift certificates were used, and that the Board make some effort to educate Maine’s business community about the Act to Minimize Reliance on Pesticides.

Board attorney Tom Harnett questioned whether the Act could be “violated” and said that it held no provision for enforcement. I responded that I was not interested in debating legal terms but was simply asking that the Board publicize the Act better, especially among Maine’s larger businesses. Board member Andrew Berry asked if it was really the Board’s place to be doing that, and Batteese pointed out that the Act provided no funding to do any such work. Harnett and Storch suggested that the Board continue to make people aware of the policy. The Board was to consider this issue at its February planning session.

Top

Environmental Risk Committee Needed?

In 1983, the Maine Legislature passed an Act to Protect the Public from Unsafe Pesticide Use. One section of the statute directed the Board to conduct environmental risk assessments, but the legislation provided for only one year of funding. A contractor was hired to establish an assessment process, and a panel of volunteer scientists was informally recruited to review the work and make recommendations to the Board. In the early 1990s, this activity was suspended due to lack of funds and staff time. Lewis recently asked that the Board take another look at this requirement to see if the process could be conducted with volunteers constituting an Environmental Risk Assessment Advisory Committee, similar to the Board’s Medical Advisory Committee.

Eckert discussed the difficulties that the Medical Advisory Committee faced. She said that it has spent 10 years just looking at fungicides – and that in that time, the toxicity of fewer than 10 fungicides had been studied well. “Other than that, we mostly react to fires,” she said. She added that the Committee’s goals and objectives were not clear and that getting the Committee together was difficult. It does meet three or four times a year.

Lewis asked what the Board’s role would be if Atlantic salmon, for instance, were listed as an endangered species in the Downeast area. Batteese said that the Board would have to work with the Department of Environmental Protection in such a case. Storch said that when the Board did have an environmental risk committee, it came up with a checklist intended to send up a red flag if a material were toxic. The committee tried glyphosate (Roundup) as a test material, spent a lot of money, and “didn’t get what we wanted.” Also, much of the work fell on Hicks. “If we had an environmental toxicologist, at least we would have the ability to respond to brushfires,” he said. Hicks suggested that an ad hoc committee be established to look at specific issues as they arise. The Board added this issue to its planning session agenda.

Top

Resistance Management Committee

In 1995, an informal group of scientists and interested parties was assembled to advise the Board on potential resistance management issues involving genetically engineered Bt potatoes. In light of recent questions raised about Bt corn, the Board was interested in formalizing a Resistance Management Committee.

Storch said that the original committee had not met in a year and a half. Due to questions that the Board recently asked Monsanto to answer about Bt-resistant beetles in its genetically manipulated NewLeaf potatoes, and the insufficiency of the response from Monsanto, Storch said that he would send Monsanto’s response to members of the original committee, ask for comments, and ask if anyone wants to meet. The response from Monsanto did not detail the size, shape or distribution of refugia for Colorado potato beetles or what work was being done in Maine to know more about the effectiveness of refugia. Monsanto did indicated that in 1998, 817 acres of NewLeaf potatoes were grown for commercial (non-seed) use in Maine on 29 farrns. These include Atlantic, Russet Burbank and Superior varieties. An additional 1120 acres of NewLeaf seed was produced on 29 farms. The commercial farms met the 20% refuge requirement – i.e., the area that Monsanto and the BPC agreed would be planted to non-engineered potatoes in order to provide a refuge where any resistant genes that did develop could be diluted by genes from beetles who had not become resistant. For more on refuges, see “Genetic Engineering Review” in this issue of The MOF&G.

The Board decided to put together a core committee of four members and to seek ad hoc members for particular commodities. Resumes will be requested from nominees, then the Board will vote on the committee at its January meeting. Suggested as core members were Board member Richard Storch (an entomologist), University of Maine entomologist Eleanor Grodin, Eric Sideman of MOFGA, and Peter Mosher of the Department of Agriculture.

Top

Former Board Member Criticized

The Board received copies of a letter written by Harriet Tilley of Bangor in which Tilley criticized former Board member and chair Tom Saviello for his “short-sighted” willingness to “tolerate risks we have not yet discovered” regarding pesticides and genetic engineering (reported in a recent issue of the BPC’s Communicator). Tilley suggested that “we can do better than that in appointing members to this important board.” Batteese said that he did not think Tilley’s letter required a response, but the Board suggested that she be told that she can recommend nominees to the Governor.

Top

Home | Programs | Agricultural Services | The Fair | Certification | Events | Publications | Resources | Store | Support MOFGA | Contact | MOFGA.net | Search
  Copyright © 2014 Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association   Terms Of Use  Privacy Statement    Site by Planet Maine