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 Maine Board of Pesticides Control - April 2007 Minimize

Plant Incorporated Pesticide (Bt Corn) Registration Requests

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto have applied to the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) to register genetically-engineered (GE) Bt field corn in Maine. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring bacterium that can infect and kill several classes of insects, is an important tool for organic growers. In GE Bt corn, however, the gene that produces the Bt toxin is inserted into the plant's genome. Additional genetic material, such as promoter and marker genes, is also engineered into the crop. Maine is the only state in the country that does not allow the sale of these Plant Incorporated Pesticide (PIP) seeds.  

In reviewing these registration requests, the BPC wants to study information on the need/benefit for the products, the risks that insects will become resistant to the Bt toxin, and the risks of gene drift. Human health concerns are not being considered, as they have been in past requests for registering PIP products. The board believes that the topic does not merit review because of insufficient evidence of human health concerns associated with PIP products.  

Board member John Jemison has assembled a committee to review these issues. Jemison, who has studied and published work on pollen transport, will chair the committee; other members include Lauchlin Titus, a certified agronomist who works with many potential users of the product; Eric Sideman, MOFGA’s organic crops specialist; Andrei Alyokhin, an entomologist at the University of Maine specializing in resistance management; Jim Dill, Cooperative Extension’s pest management specialist; and Lee Humphreys, an organic farmer and educator and BPC board member.

The BPC received comments from the applicants and the public at its April 2007 meeting. Proponents for registration included Doug Johnson (executive director of the Maine Biotechnology Information Center), Lauchlin Titus, and several Maine dairy farmers. The farmers cited a need for high yielding varieties that in the past were available in their pure form, but now are available only with PIP and other genetic modifications, such as Roundup Ready crops. Some 70 to 90% of top-yielding varieties are Bt varieties. While farmers used to have 10 non-Bt corn varieties to choose from, they now have two or three. One farmer also expressed his desire not to have to handle pesticides. He didn’t express a dire need for Bt corn per se, but to having options that make the best economic sense for his farming operation. A few proponents claimed that using Bt corn will drastically reduce pesticide applications, and a report noted that the Western corn rootworm, which is susceptible to Bt corn, is moving eastward and will be a significant pest presence in the near future.

Opposing the registration requests were Russell Libby, executive director of MOFGA, and organic dairy farmer Spencer Aitel. Both argued against the demonstrated need of the products. Data provided by the seed companies as evidence of need is considered questionable and should be verified by a third party.  Presence of the engineered Bt toxin in all plant cells will speed the development of resistance in insects, causing organic growers to lose applied Bt as an effective pest control. Contamination of non-GE crops with genetic material from PIP products is also a critical concern for organic growers and for seed producers. Questions also exist about the long-term impact of these products on human health and on invertebrate life in soil.

Speaking neither for nor against the registration was Logan Perkins of the Food for Maine’s Future Protect Maine Farms campaign. She pointed out the dire need for protection not only from contamination (via pollen drift), but also liability issues resulting from that contamination. She asked the board to take measures to protect Maine farmers from the possibility of being sued if engineered genetic material drifts to their farms.

For the current status of this registration request, or to submit information that would help  the board make its decision, contact acting director Henry Jennings at 207-287-2731 or henry.jennings@maine.gov. Board of Pesticides Control meeting agendas, minutes & supporting documents are available at www.thinkfirstspraylast.org.

Drift Committees

The BPC has established two stakeholder committees to examine problems associated with pesticide drift.  Eric Sideman, MOFGA’s organic crops specialist, sits on the Technical Drift Committee, which is evaluating technology options for minimizing drift. Heather Spalding, MOFGA’s associate director, sits on the Pesticides Drift Stakeholder Committee, which consists of 16 members, including organic and conventional farmers, pesticide applicators, state employees, forest and agriculture commodity representatives, and nonprofit organizations representing environmental, public citizen and organic farming interests. The committees hope to make formal recommendations for minimizing exposure to pesticides. The BPC will consider the recommendations first and may bring them to the 2008 Legislature for consideration.

Consent Agreements

The following companies were fined for violations of pesticide application rules:
  • Causeway Club Golf Course of Southwest Harbor. Violation: No person from the course was licensed as a commercial applicator at the time of application.  
  • JDB Inc. of Brewer. Violation: A company applicator misread the address on the work order and started applying broadleaf weed control to the wrong property.  
  • G.M. Allen & Son, Inc. Violation: A company applicator applied Sinbar herbicide to blueberry land without wearing chemical-resistant gloves as required by the label, and his pesticide application record was incomplete. Also, the company did not post the Restricted Entry Intervals at its Central Information Display as required under the Worker Protection Standard.
  • Cherryfield Foods, Inc. Violation: Drift of an insecticide from a ground application to a blueberry field onto a lawn and garden located on the opposite side of the highway in Cherryfield. This action constituted a violation of the board’s Chapter 22 regulations requiring applicators to protect sensitive areas from pesticide drift.  
  • Greenscapes Lawn Care, Inc. Violation: Commercial application of an herbicide to a property in Kittery that was within 250 feet of a property listed on the 2006 Pesticide Notification Registry. The company provided notice to the registrant only two hours and 10 minutes before the application, violating registry provisions in Chapter 28 requiring at least six hours advance notice.  
  • Lucas Tree Expert Company. Violation: Applicator failed to check the electric meter and applied pesticide to the wrong property.  
  • Barren View Golf Course of Jonesboro. Violation: At the time of the applications, no person from the course was licensed as a commercial applicator.

Development of Buffer Zones to Protect Surface Water

The board reviewed potential language and concepts at its January, February and March meetings and continues to work on satisfactory language to establish a 25-foot buffer around surface waters.  

Approved Pesticide Registration and Variance Requests

The Division of Plant Industry in the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food & Rural Resources has again requested that the Board petition EPA for a FIFRA Section 18 specific exemption for use of coumaphos (CheckMite+) to control both varroa mites and small hive beetles in managed bee colonies. Fluvalinate has been used to control varroa mites since 1987, but in 1997 resistance started developing. In addition, small hive beetles have spread into Maine, and no product is registered to control this pest.

United Phosphorus, Inc., submitted a request for a Special Local Needs (24C) Registration to allow the use of Devrinol 50-DF (napropamide) on a pre-emergence basis to control annual grasses and broadleaf weeds infesting cranberry bogs. The product is currently registered for use on fruit, nut and vegetable crops. The EPA has established a tolerance for napropamide on cranberries, and Maine growers are currently allowed to use a 10% granular formulation. However, granulars can be difficult to apply properly in the spring. This request would allow growers greater application flexibility.

Bayer CropScience submitted a request for a Special Local Needs (24C) Registration to allow a lower rate of Provado (imidacloprid) on lowbush blueberries to control blueberry maggot. The product is currently registered for use on blueberries with a recommended rate of 6 to 8 fluid ounces per acre. This request would allow the use of 4 ounces per acre when low to moderate pest pressure exists. Board member John Jemison pointed out that the lower rate would make this product a more affordable alternative to organophosphates currently used to treat this pest.

The city of Augusta submitted a request for a variance to treat weeds growing in cracks between sidewalks and streets and in cracks adjacent to median strips. The board’s drift regulations allow applicators to seek a variance from any standards felt unreasonable for their type of operation. They are seeking a variance so that they do not have to record all sensitive areas within 500 feet of the target areas. Instead, they propose using a small spray pattern, leaving a 50-foot buffer to surface water, and publishing a notice in the Kennebec Journal.

Amendments to Chapters 40 and 41 Adopted

Concerning trichlorfon (Dylox, Proxol), previous proposed rule changes would have retained the requirement that it be applied only by licensed applicators, but eliminated the need for a board-approved permit before it can be used.  Concern over making an organophosphate more available led the board to rewrite the proposed change so that trichlorfon would be moved to the restricted use list (not requiring a board-approved permit) if:
  1. trichlorfon be used only to control subsurface insects on turf;
  2. prior to application the target pest must be identified and the severity of the infestation must be determined, including the extent of the damage;
  3. only infested areas shall be treated with trichlorfon.  Broadcast treatments of the entire turf area are prohibited;
  4. Following application, trichlorfon must be watered into the soil with at least 1/2 inch of water and according to label directions. The applicator must assure that appropriate watering will take place before re-entry by any unprotected person.

Concerning pond dyes, the rule change will exempt purchasers of certain food-grade pond dyes from applicator licensing requirements, in order to provide an option for controlling nuisance algal growth in private ponds. Registered herbicides containing only the active ingredients erioglaucine (Acid Blue 9 or FD&C Number 1) and/or tartrazine (Acid Yellow 23 or FD&C Yellow Number 5) are exempt from the applicator licensing requirements.
 
Your Voice Counts!

Following receipt of a letter from a concerned citizen, the board will discuss expanding its current posting requirements for pesticide applications that are made in public areas such as parks, playgrounds, parking lots and walkways, but are not currently covered by the board’s posting requirements.

To make your voice heard, you can contact the Board of Pesticides Control via www.thinkfirstspraylast.org or by contacting acting director Henry Jennings at 207-287-2731 or henry.jennings@maine.gov.

– Melissa White

    

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