Maine BPC Approves Bt Sweet Corn
At its March meeting, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) voted to allow the sale of genetically engineered Bt sweet corn in Maine. Previously, Maine had been the only state where this product was not registered. The ad hoc Bt Corn Technical Committee, which released its review of the original product labels in late 2008, recommended approving the registration. In February, the BPC’s Medical Advisory Committee met to discuss potential public health implications of Bt proteins from the genetically engineered product and made no conclusive recommendation because it had insufficient research data about the effects of these proteins on human health.
Throughout this process MOFGA continued to oppose registration, primarily because no comprehensive data are being collected on the health or environmental effects of these varieties or “events.” Also, tracking use of this product may be impossible if home gardeners are allowed to purchase it. The Bt field corn requires growing a reserve of non-Bt corn to prevent the development of insect resistance; the sweet corn labels require mowing and incorporating the crop after harvest. There is no way to ensure that home gardeners follow this requirement.
The BPC decided not to wait for the medical evidence. Its members repeatedly stated that many people in Maine are already consuming Bt sweet corn in such foods as corn chips and canned corn grown elsewhere and shipped here.
Many BPC and staff members agreed that education about plow down requirements is essential to ensure that insect resistance does not occur. They also cited their decision to require purchase of enough seed to plant 1 acre as justification that plow down requirements will be followed. They believe that home gardeners won’t buy the large amount, so the BPC will be able to track plow down compliance among larger growers. The Board also said that allowing Bt sweet corn to be grown will reduce applications of Lannate, a dangerous carbamate commonly used to control insects on corn. It did not consider the alternative of simply having farmers apply Bt to their sweet corn, and forgoing both genetic engineering and Lannate.
Board member Chuck Ravis opposed approving the registration, saying that he felt uncomfortable with the decision.
In its approval, the Board modified Chapter 41 of its rules to incorporate the sweet corn label restrictions and to limit sales to farmers who have been trained regarding insect resistance. Garden size packets will not be allowed.
This means that consumers of fresh, Maine-grown sweet corn can no longer assume that the product is not genetically engineered, unless they purchase organically grown sweet corn.
Pesticide Application Rule Violations
David Charlesworth of Bedford, N.H., was fined $500 for applying glyphosate adjacent to the shoreline on Spruce Creek in Kittery.
John Tibbets of Lyman was fined $100 for purchasing and using Atrazine 4L, a restricted use pesticide, with an expired private applicator license.
Mike Rowell of Levant was fined $100 for purchasing and using two restricted use pesticides with no private applicator license.
Scott’s Lawn Service was fined $1,200, with $600 suspended because he reported the violation himself. The violation occurred when a Scott’s employee applied insecticides to the wrong lawn on two consecutive days to a Kennebunk residence. The company has since revised its written policy to require the applicator to read the electric meter to identify the correct property. Label rate violations occurred as well.
Plants Unlimited of Rockport was fined $200 for failing to keep pesticide application records for 2007 and 2008. Additionally, workers were not trained as required by the federal Worker Protection Standard, and no central display gave pesticide application and safety information. Plants Unlimited was also fined in 2003 for some of the same violations. Some BPC members said this fine seemed too lenient for this type of repeated violation; they would like to see higher penalties in the future.
Adam Patterson of Augusta was fined $350 after applying insecticides without a private applicator’s license to an apartment building that he owns.
Sugarloaf Golf Course was fined $250 for failing to have a licensed commercial master applicator on staff for three months in 2008.
Orkin Exterminating Co. was fined $1,000 for applying insecticides to the wrong property in Hartford. The property treated was an Orkin customer. The property that was supposed to be treated was a rental property of the customer. Orkin was asked to submit to the BPC a written policy for positive site identification.
Pesticide Registrations – and Refusals
At its January 2009 meeting, the BPC approved a Special Local Need [24(c)] registration for Ethrel brand Ethephon plant regulator. This Bayer Cropscience product will be used on greenhouse tomatoes to accelerate ripening and minimize crop loss. However, the EPA replied, saying it had already determined that Ethephon was not going to be approved for this use, and denying the local need registration.
In March 2009, the BPC approved a Special Local Need [24(c)] registration request from Dow AgriSciences for its GoalTender herbicide (oxyfluorfen) to control post-emergent weeds in broccoli.
– Katy Green