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BPC on Notification, New Genetically Engineered Corn

Bt Corn Safety Questioned but Varieties Approved
Pesticide Application Rule Violations

BPC on Notification, New Genetically Engineered Corn

Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) has been focusing on rule changes to Chapter 28 to accommodate LD 1293, An Act to Require Citizen Notification of Pesticide Applications Using Aerial Spray or Air-Carrier Equipment.

After its October 2009 public hearing, the board, at its December meeting, agreed to draft a memo to the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry stating its concerns with LD 1293. These included the 90-day notification window, the fact that notification must be written, variation in the forms of pesticide application in the bill (air carrier versus air blast equipment) and alternative methods of notification. The board also asked the agriculture committee to clarify the broad policy issues it would like to have addressed. The BPC unanimously approved drafting the memo and, by a 4 to 3 vote, agreed to provisionally pass its changes to Chapter 28 based on the memo. Board members Simonds, Jemison, Bohlen and Eckert voted for the changes, and Ravis, Stevenson and Qualey opposed them.

On January 22, the proposed changes in Chapter 28 as well as LD 1547, An Act to Revise Notification Requirements for Pesticides Applications Using Aircraft or Air-carrier Equipment, went before the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for public comments. LD 1547 addresses issues in 1293 that needed clarification and is similar to the BPC rule changes.

Many at the January 22 hearing opposed both notification bills and suggested that the legislature repeal LD 1293 and have the BPC start over.

Others spoke in favor of LD 1547, emphasizing the importance of communication to protect people from exposure to harmful chemicals and to mitigate conflict that arises from off-site drift.

In addition to MOFGA, proponents included organic farmers, citizens with serious illnesses that have been linked to pesticides exposure, citizens who have experienced off-site drift from nearby pesticide applications, and many organizations, including the Maine Chapter of the American Lung Association; the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, which includes MOFGA, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine, Maine Council of Churches, Maine Labor Group on Health, Maine People's Resource Center, Maine Women's Policy Center, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Physicians for Social Responsibility/Maine Chapter, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and Toxics Action Center; Citizens for a Green Camden; and the Environmental Priorities Coalition, which includes many groups named above as well as the Appalachian Mountain Club, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Maine, Friends of Casco Bay, Maine Audubon, Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine Congress of Lake Associations, Maine Council of Trout Unlimited, Maine Rivers, Northern Forest Alliance, RESTORE: The North Woods, Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club, Ocean Conservancy, and The Wilderness Society.

Most who testified seemed happy with a free registry for notification and hope that a unified registry will be in place in the future.

The Joint Standing Committee will determine how it wants move forward on notification.

MOFGA continues to advocate for clear, concise and easily implemented rules on pesticide spray notification. We are working with Rep. Andy O'Brien (D-Lincolnville), sponsor of LD 1547, to streamline notification laws so that they work for landowners who spray, for citizens who live near spray areas and need to be notified, and for public officials who have to implement and enforce the rules and regulations.

Meanwhile, those who want to be notified of aerial or air-carrier pesticide applications near their homes this year can still sign up for the free registry by March 15 at www.thinkfirstspraylast.org or by calling the BPC at 207-287-2731.


Bt Corn Safety Questioned but Varieties Approved

Another ongoing BPC discussion involves genetically engineered Bt sweet corn. At its December meeting, BPC staff toxicologist Lebelle Hicks updated findings of the Bt corn Medical Advisory Committee (MAC). Board member Dr. Carol Eckert and Hicks, both on the MAC, think the health effects of Bt corn consumption seem minimal or nonexistent and not worth worrying about, but noted that they are mostly in the minority at the MAC, and the committee in general does not seem to think that enough scientific evidence exists to determine the health effects, if any, of Bt corn consumption. The board asked Hicks to continue to monitor and report on scientific articles about Bt corn consumption.

The board approved registration of three new genetically engineered Bt field corn varieties at its December meeting. These are Syngenta’s Vegetative Insecticidal Protein (VIP)-containing Bt cultivars MIR 162 Maize (EPA# 67979-14), Agrisure 2100 (EPA# 67979-12) and Agrisure 3100 (EPA# 67979-13). Board members Simonds, Jemison, Eckert, Stevenson and Qualey approved the registration, while Bohlen and Ravis opposed.


Pesticide Application Rule Violations

Sterling Insect-Lawn Control Inc. of Gorham was fined $200 after an employee failed to wear proper personal protective equipment while applying Q4 Turf herbicide. The label requires that the applicator wear a long sleeved shirt, chemical-resistant gloves made of any waterproof material, and protective eye wear. This is the second time that this type of violation was noted at this company.

The board unanimously approved a consent agreement including a $500 fine with Commercial Properties Real Estate Management Company Inc. of Portland. The violation occurred when an unlicensed pesticide applicator treated a parking lot at the Mill Creek Mall. The company owner acknowledged that this type of application had happened before.

Ralph Boynton of Lincoln was fined $150 for applying Roundup herbicide to his neighbor’s land without permission. Boynton believed he had received permission from the neighbor to apply the herbicide, but the neighbor disagreed. A BPC inspector determined that Boynton did not have the permission.

– Katy Green



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