BPC Public Hearing: Clash of Views on Proposed Pesticide Ban
Over 160 people crammed into the Union Town Hall on December 8, 1999, for the better part of six hours, some travelling hundreds of miles to get there. Some came as curious onlookers, but most came with a mission. They came to support or defeat the application of the Bruce and Debbie Brown family of Hope for designation of a Critical Pesticide Control Area for half a mile around their home, under Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) regulations. The Browns, who are organic farmers, seek a total pesticide ban in this area. They contend that both Debbie and their 12 year-old-daughter, Codey, have extreme chemical sensitivities. Drift from pesticides used by their neighbors Everett and Tim Crabtree, who maintain about 70 acres of blueberry fields on three sides of the Browns’ 35-acre property, is making them sick. Codey, the Browns allege, developed this condition only after moving to Hope nine years ago, and after repeated exposures to drift from aerial spraying, including the organophosphate azinphos-methyl (Guthion or Sniper2E). She has been unable to attend school for over a year, because of her sensitivities to chemicals in the school environment. Chapter 60 of the BPC regulations has provided, for over a decade, for special restrictions on pesticide use in “Critical Pesticide Control Areas” where such restrictions are necessary either to protect wildlife or other natural resources, or where unrestricted use of pesticides “is likely to cause serious and/or longstanding impairment of the health of sensitive individuals … who normally occupy such areas.” The rule has been used twice to protect fish, but has never before been invoked to protect human health.
Debbie Brown testified that she had adjusted to her chemical sensitivities, and a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome stemming from previous work with poorly ventilated chemicals in a factory, but was unprepared for her young daughter exhibiting similar symptoms, apparently in reaction to pesticide exposure. Since a July 1998 spraying of Sniper2E by the Crabtrees, which made Codey sick for ten days, Codey has been plagued, Brown explained, “with excruciating and debilitating headaches” that have kept her out of school and from other activities she used to enjoy. Visits outside the home and things brought into the home threaten reactions to chemical exposures. “A trip to most stores brings on severe symptoms … and bringing needed items into our house, like new clothes or shoes, groceries, a new washing machine, a repair man, etc., can all make her violently ill. Even a much needed hug can make her ill for days. All these things were part of Codey’s life until this event. Everything in her life has changed – everything in our whole family’s life has changed.”
The Browns have made extensive efforts to eliminate chemical exposures in their home, including installing a $1000 water filter to filter out hexazinone (Velpar) that has been detected at low levels in their two wells. They are unable to control, however, the effects of pesticide spraying on the hills surrounding their home, drifting onto their property. They have put their home up for sale, but have found no takers, and “have had great difficulty finding a house and location that would not create new chemical problems for us.” Brown concluded by saying that if this petition were granted, she hoped “we may be able to continue to live in our home that we have invested our hopes and dreams in, and … Codey will gradually get better.”
Codey Brown did not attend the hearing, but her 17-year-old sister Haley, who does not suffer from chemical sensitivities, begged the Board to try to imagine what it was like living in her family: “Every day when you enter your own home you have to immediately change your clothes to be hung outside before being brought in to wash, and every morning you put on a coat that has been left outside, even when it is below zero, because it holds odors from the chemicals your sister cannot tolerate. Imagine that you no longer go anywhere as a family, even to family gatherings, unless it happens to be outside and both the weather and your sister’s health permit. You never have friends, godparents, or other relatives inside your home, because everything from the laundry detergents to after shaves make her fall ill.” Haley described her sister Codey as “a 12-year-old child who has had to grow up too fast, who has lost these past years of her childhood.”
Debbie Brown’s mother, Leslie Poole, also made a plea for restrictions on the pesticide use that afflicted the Browns: “We are not permitted to toss our garbage or our junk cars on others’ properties. Why is it acceptable to dump pesticides simply because they cannot be seen?” Noting that Chapter 60 has been used to protect a fish hatchery, Poole argued that “to deny its protection to my daughter, my granddaughters, and my son-in-law relays a message that human life is less important.”
The application form for a Chapter 60 petition requires “at least one letter from a physician verifying medical or epidemiological documentation of sensitivity” to pesticides. The Browns submitted the written opinions of three physicians who are currently treating Codey: Dr. Dirk Vandersloot of Rockland; Dr. Joseph Py of Portland; and Dr. Kevin Zorski of Freeport. Each had concluded that Codey was chemically sensitive and that her exposures to pesticides must be eliminated. Py, a specialist in environmental medicine, stated that “within a reasonable degree of medical certainty … Codey’s condition is related to her exposure proximity to insecticides and herbicides. I believe that her continued exposure is likely to cause serious or long lasting impairment of health.” Py attended the hearing and testified in support of the petition. He explained that Codey’s examinations and lab tests confirm that she meets all six criteria for multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) approved in a 1999 consensus statement of physicians practicing in the area of environmental health.
He described Codey’s condition as both chronic and worsening. “The prognosis for Codey and Deborah is poor with continued exposure. My recommendation to them was very clear: Move. Get out of the area. Well, they’re trying to do that. But I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to buy a house with a polluted well. From a purely medical standpoint, my recommendation would be to stop all spraying in the vicinity of anyone in that area, since the potential for additional illness is real. … Codey and Deborah can only improve with removal of the offending agent or their removal from the area. Other than that, they’ll continue to decline, pretty predictably.”
Organic grower Robert Sewall, who has managed organic apple orchards and blueberry land in Lincolnville for 20 years as well as blueberry land at Beech Hill Farm in Rockport, also testified in support of the petition. Sewall grows blueberries without any chemicals, even those permissible under organic standards. He argued that growing blueberries organically for the smaller farmer is both possible and profitable. The increase in the blueberry crop over the past 20 years since the introduction of the herbicide hexazinone, and the resultant depression in prices, “makes your marketing a very difficult situation.” Sewall said that for him, focusing not on selling to processors but on the fresh market for local, quality organic produce was the right thing to do. “I’m not rich. I own my farm. I’ve done well enough to know that my management practices are respected, and that on our project at Beech Hill, we’re looking at recovering another 100 acres [for blueberry production].”
Opponents of the petition appeared to outnumber supporters, both in the audience and in those who approached the microphone during the public comment period in the second half of the hearing. Remarkably few of the people who owned property within the half-mile radius of the Browns’ home spoke, however. Tax records had indicated 38 affected property owners; only five spoke – three members of the Crabtree family who operate the blueberry farm, and two family friends of the Crabtrees. Most of the other opponents were farmers, some of whom had traveled from as far as Machias, Columbia and Harrington, to argue against the Brown petition. Many of the audience members wore “We Support Maine Farms” buttons. Representatives of the Maine Farm Bureau and Wild Blueberry Commission also weighed in against the proposed regulations.
The opponents’ arguments fell into three general categories: (1) that existing spray drift and notification provisions of BPC regulations, and/or advances in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, were sufficient to protect people like the Browns; (2) that singling out pesticides for regulation was unfair and possibly ineffective, since the Browns were sensitive to a wide variety of chemicals; and (3) that granting this petition would open up the floodgates of similar claims and put Maine farmers everywhere out of business. Additionally, an expert witness hired by the Crabtrees, Waterville physician Calvin Fuhrmann, questioned the medical diagnosis of MCS and the allegations that pesticides were toxic in the quantities to which the Browns were exposed.
Tim Crabtree farms 70 acres of blueberries with his father, Everett, all but seven of which would be affected by the proposed rule. He stated that increasing residential development in the proximity of farms “is putting more pressure on farmers to be as prudent as possible in their farming practices. We are in fact farming smarter.” He stated that using IPM methods, such as fruit fly traps, saved him from applying Guthion last summer in one of his fields. “Nonetheless, there are times when … we do run into problems that need the use of a pesticide or herbicides to control. ..[W]hen an infestation of fruit flies occurs, we either treat the affected field with Guthion or Imidan or we lose our crop. It’s that simple. This is a government requirement. Any shipment with a certain count of blueberry maggots will be rejected.” He claimed that “fields are sprayed in a manner to avoid the least drift off the desired site. The helicopter pilots are putting their reputations on the line every time they go up.” He concluded by saying he felt “we are taking adequate steps to ensure the Browns can feel safe and at the same time we can continue to raise blueberries as we have for the past 85 years.”
Molly Sholes, a blueberry farmer from West Rockport, stated that she realized that the Browns “have a serious health problem,” but questioned “whether it wasn’t tantamount to dictatorship to have one family and their problems, no matter how much we sympathize with their problems, dictate to a whole agricultural industry, which is the second biggest agricultural industry in the state of Maine, what we can do and how we’re going to grow it.” Linda Nash, whose family manages blueberries in four Maine counties, testified that she was “confident that what we are doing is safe …. If I thought it was unsafe, I would not have my son in the field. I would not have my husband in the field.”
Fred Olday, director of agricultural research for Jasper Wyman and Son of Cherryfield, managing 6,000 acres of blueberry land, argued that herbicide use was essential to the preservation of open space in Maine: “The natural tendency in the Northeast, and Maine in particular, is for land to be – to revert to forest. And so if herbicides in particular are not used in the state of Maine, what open space that people do enjoy, both for pleasure and for agricultural purposes, will simply disappear.”
Dave Bell, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine, argued that farmers successfully use IPM methods to minimize pesticide use: “I’ve seen growers get excited about the quality of the crop, the impending harvest, the prize cattle, but I’ve never seen a grower get excited about making a pesticide treatment. Farmers take those decisions very seriously and understand if it’s not done correctly, according to the label, they could potentially affect the health of their neighbors.” Bell also questioned the feasibility of developing an international market for organically grown Maine blueberries. The Japanese, he observed, “want organics, but no bugs.” Quebec has a huge organic blueberry crop, Bell argued, only because they’re far enough north not to have the blueberry fruit fly.
Dr. Calvin Fuhrmann, an internist and pulmonologist who relocated from Baltimore to Waterville, Maine, two years ago, has testified, according to the Crabtrees’ attorney, Stephen Langsdorf, “over 200 times” in legal proceedings. His objective in testifying at this hearing was clearly to discredit the Browns’ medical claims.
Fuhrmann first asked for a show of hands of how many people in the room worked, as blueberry farmers, with the chemicals that concerned the Browns. Then he claimed that there was no evidence before the Board “that this group of heavily exposed individuals are suffering from health effects.
“This is the most exposed group of individuals we could find in the state of Maine. They’ve come here tonight. If they’re suffering from the health effects of these chemicals, those of us who take care of these people in our offices are not seeing them.” Noting that everyone is sensitive to some chemicals, Fuhrmann cited cigarette smoke as an example. “And I know we have smokers in our audience here. And they’ve been banned from most bars except the ones I hang out in. Understand? And the reason for that is that people are sensitive to it …. But it’s one thing to be sensitive, and it’s another thing to attribute a person’s symptomology to the point that a decision might be made that would have an extremely detrimental effect on a very live and important industry in the state of Maine.”
In response to questioning from Board member Dr. Carol Eckert, Fuhrmann also stated that multiple chemical sensitivity is a “very controversial area,” that the American Academy of Environmental Medicine “is not a recognized board,” and that the tests Codey had “are not recognized … This is not a part of conventional medicine.”
Ag Department Perspective
Linda Smith Dyer, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, delivered essentially neutral comments, emphasizing both the importance and the difficulty of the choices before the Board. Dyer did not question “that there has been an adverse effect on the health of the Browns.
“I as a non-medical person am not even going to begin to suggest what the cause is, but I think that we can all sympathize, and certainly as a mother I have great sympathy for the fact that there has been an adverse effect. And were I in the place of the Browns as a parent, I, too, would be extremely, extremely frustrated and concerned about my inability to help my child.” But as “public policy makers,” Smith Dyer cautioned the Board that they had to consider what precedent their decision would set: “So I leave it to you in your best judgment to weigh the evidence that has been presented to you against the standard which the statute provides to you, and wish you the very best of luck as you go through your deliberations.”
The Last Word
I assisted the Brown family in presenting their petition and was allowed the final comments at the conclusion of the public hearing. Pointing out that this petition really applies only to a mile radius circle in the town of Hope, I rebutted claims that granting the Browns protection would put all 570 Maine blueberry growers out of business. I argued that this was an exceptional case, and that while many people may suffer from chemical sensitivities, few “are willing to go through what the Browns have had to do.
“How many 12-year-old kids do you know who have left school because of chemical sensitivities to their environment? … How many people would bring not just one … but three opinions from treating physicians saying this child has special sensitivities, this child needs to be removed from exposure to chemicals?”
I pointed out that the resume of Crabtrees’ expert, Dr. Fuhrmann, indicated he was an expert in asthma, nicotine addiction and smoking cessation – “none of which has anything to do with what we’re talking about today.” In response to Fuhrmann’s statement that there was no evidence of the adverse effects on the farming population of the chemicals at issue, I suggested the Board look at the 500-page exhibit notebook submitted on behalf of the Browns, which Fuhrmann evidently had not reviewed. I quoted the EPA’s August 2, 1999, Risk Management Decision on azinphos-methyl (Guthion), which stated that estimated risks to people who apply the pesticide and work in fields to harvest treated crops “remain unacceptable despite the use of additional protective clothing, equipment, and engineering controls. Post-application risks to reentry workers greatly exceed EPA’s level of concern.” I noted that the national Poison Control Center and California Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program data rank azinphos-methyl fifth among the registered pesticides selected on the basis of high incidence of pesticide poisonings, relatively high toxicity, and high usage.
In response to claims that farmers can adequately control drift, even from aerial spraying, I cited California data finding that 20% of reported pesticide exposure incidents each year were caused by drift. And I cited the national Cooperative Extension Toxicology Network Pesticide Information Profile for azinphos-methyl, which calls it “one of the most toxic of the organophosphate insecticides, highly toxic by inhalation, dermal absorption, and eye contact,” and notes that its effects “may be greater in a previously exposed person than in an individual with no previous exposure.”
I argued that the Crabtrees had a viable option of growing blueberries organically without chemicals, and in any event nothing in the criteria for establishing Critical Pesticide Control Areas permitted the Board to weigh economic impact against health effects. Finally, I asked Board members to think about what they should do if, after reviewing all the testimony and evidence, they’re still unsure, they’re troubled by conflicting medical points of view: “Do you flip a coin? Do you really want to gamble with this girl’s life? Do you want to take a chance that all three of her treating physicians are wrong and go ahead and let this spraying continue? Or is it better to apply the precautionary principle and say, better safe than sorry?”
Majority of Board Favors Hope Critical Pesticide Control Area
At its next, January 14, meeting, after lengthy discussion, the BPC voted 4 - 3 to develop a regulation establishing a Critical Pesticide Control Area around the Brown home. A decisive factor in the vote seemed to be Board Chairman Alan Lewis’ admonition that the Board should not impose a higher standard on the Brown family petition than it applies in its other rulemaking proceedings, and that it should not be overcome by “paralysis by analysis.”
At the outset of the discussion, each member of the Board was asked to express his or her view of whether the Brown family had established that continued unrestricted use of pesticides around their home was “likely to cause serious and/or longstanding impairment of the health of sensitive individuals … who normally occupy such areas.” It was clear from the discussion that in addition to the six-hour-long hearing, the Board members had taken the time to review the approximately 500-page submission by the petitioners, as well as the 446 pages of comments and documents from the public.
Michael Dann, a new member of the Board and a forester with Seven Islands Land Company, stated that he was unclear about the relevance of a lab test related to liver metabolism that Codey’s specialist in environmental health had relied on. Carol Eckert, the physician member of the Board, a family practitioner, responded with considerable skepticism about the relevance of the test: “These are not standard tests that are run in every hospital lab. This testing is not accepted by all medical practitioners as clinically useful or reproducible or diagnostic. I’ve never sent for any of these tests. They are considered a little new and different.” Dann later stated that he was “far from convinced that there has been a direct connection between pesticide spraying and Codey’s illness.”
Eckert stated that Codey’s record was “a little light” on medical evidence but conceded that more medical evidence of sensitivity was in the records for her mother, Debbie Brown. She stated that she was troubled that other possibilities had not been positively ruled out: “We don’t have a clear answer that MCS is the only diagnosis available here for either of them. We don’t have a clear idea that organophosphates are the causal issue here. We don’t have a clear idea that avoidance is going to totally cure or reverse this disease.” Eckert also indicated, however, that she found the research submitted by proponents of the petition helpful, particularly an unsolicited submission by nationally recognized expert Claudia Miller, a professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Texas: “The MCS literature makes two points: organophosphates may be a causal factor in many but not all cases, and there isn’t clear data regarding causation and treatment.”
In response to an inquiry from Board member Jo D. Saffeir as to whether this lack of information wasn’t also the case with other illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, Eckert agreed, and also pointed to similarities with the controversy over Tuberculosis 100 years ago. While Eckert agreed that physicians specializing in MCS believe that symptoms can be alleviated over a long period of time with decreasing exposure to chemicals, “I’m not sure eliminating this one exposure [to pesticides] is going to fix this problem and I’m not sure when it’s going to fix it.”
Neil Crane, also a new member of the Board and a potato grower, stated that he was “having trouble that we have disputing medical evidence on both sides.” He stated that he had “dealt with pesticides over the years,” and wasn’t convinced that “we could do something that would improve the situation. It hasn’t been proven to me at this point.”
Saffeir: Maine Agriculture Not at Stake
Jo D. Saffeir, the public representative on the Board and Executive Director of the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, stated that she was “really impressed by the thoughtfulness of almost all of the comments.” Regarding suggestions at the public hearing that Codey should have had a CAT Scan or MRI to rule out brain tumor, Saffeir stated that she “felt some responsibility to not second-guess one doctor over another. Three attending physicians didn’t feel it was necessary.” In response to the argument many conventional growers made at the hearing – that Codey was affected by a lot of chemicals, not just pesticides and that singling out pesticides for regulation was unfair – Saffeir stated that this was a “logical” argument, but “we’re the Board of Pesticides Control, not carpet off-gas control or perfume control.” Saffeir agreed that asking whether a Pesticide Control Area would it do any good was a valid question. “When I looked at what her three [treating] physicians were stating, I had to conclude, yes.”
Regarding the fears of farmers who came to the hearing from all over the state, concerned that this rule would set a precedent that would threaten their livelihood, Saffeir stated that this “was not an issue that should be taken into account. At the public hearing it did not strike me as an easy process that a significant number of people were going to undergo simply because they don’t like pesticides.” Saffeir also agreed, however, that “this isn’t the best place for Codey Brown to live. I’m not convinced action we can take is going to completely solve the problem.” Saffeir argued that prohibiting pesticides was not going to put the Crabtrees out of business, though it would “radically change their farming operation.” She noted that there was a booming organic market, where demand exceeds supply. “This is not an issue that puts Maine agriculture at stake.” In sum, Saffeir stated that she supported the petition “because there were three doctors that believed pesticide exposure is having a direct impact on Codey’s health.”
Saffeir noted, however, that it appeared that aerial spraying was the major problem here, and that a Critical Pesticide Control Area should focus on banning all aerial spraying within the half mile radius of the Browns’ home.
Holyoke: a Psychological Thing?
Vaughan Holyoke, newly re-appointed to the Board he previously chaired, and a retired Professor Emeritus and Director of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, stated that he was most influenced by an April 26, 1999, position paper by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine on MCS submitted by the Crabtrees’ attorney. The paper stated that “the relationship of MCS to environmental contaminants remains unproven. No scientific basis currently exists for investigating, regulating or managing the environment with the goal of minimizing the incidence or severity of MCS.” Holyoke said he was skeptical because one of Codey’s treating physicians reached a definitive diagnosis of MCS after only one office visit. [Holyoke did not note that the diagnosis also followed analysis of two lab tests used in MCS diagnosis by environmental health practitioners, a “Comprehensive Hepatic Detoxification Profile,” and a blood test analyzing antibodies.] However, Holyoke also wondered, “if it was one of my grandchildren living there, how would I see it differently? I keep going around and around.” Holyoke stated that he was also troubled by not knowing whether, “if we turn this into a no spray area, it’s going to help.” After conceding that “only fools say what I’m about to say,” Holyoke later commented, “I know if a spray plane flies over some houses you get all kinds of complaints. People get choked up and eyes run. It’s a psychological thing that this creates. I’m not sure what needs to be done.”
The final member to express his view before the Chairman spoke was Jerry Litzerman, who, according to the regulatory procedure, was a special appointee of the town of Hope for this issue. He is a member of the Board of Selectman and a retired school teacher and guidance counselor. Litzerman opened by stating that there was “no doubt in my mind that we have a sick little girl.” He agreed that there were multiple causes and not pesticides only. “At best I can only see a partial solution [by restricting pesticides].” Litzerman also agreed with Saffeir that “aerial spraying seems to be the problem. I agree we might ban not all pesticides but just aerial.”
Lewis: “Paralysis by Analysis"
Chairman Alan Lewis, a professor of ecology at the University of Maine at Machias, stated that he had been unable to attend the public hearing for medical reasons. However, he wanted to assure the Board that he had independently made a site visit as they had on the day of the hearing, and carefully read the 204-page transcript of the hearing, as well as “every page” of the documentary record in the case. Lewis’ statements seemed to turn the tide of sentiment on the Board in favor of action on a Critical Pesticide Control Area.
Lewis initially responded to the uneasiness expressed by several Board members about conflicting medical views in the case. After reviewing the record thoroughly, Lewis said, “I was left with the opinion that you do have two sick people living in this home and that their illness is precipitated by environmental chemicals …. I can’t believe this child and this woman would be living the life they live and this not be real.” He urged the Board “not to hold the Browns to such a level of proof that the general medical community must agree that MCS is real and valid. I treat all physicians as equal … As an environmental scientist, very much of what is studied is subject to conflicting views. We try to avoid ‘paralysis by analysis.’ If we want absolute truth we will never have anything.”
Accepting that Debbie and Codey Brown have a sensitivity to chemicals, Lewis continued, “how could they have a sensitivity to all chemicals and not have a sensitivity to pesticides?” The original cause of their condition, Lewis insisted, “is immaterial … They don’t have to prove the trigger was pesticides or anything else. If we get hung up on looking for an initiation, it’s another dead end to go down.”
Lewis observed that the Board had already established two Critical Pesticide Control Areas – to protect fish from pesticides. He said he was struck by the irony that when those areas were established, growers who would be affected told the Board, “Don’t act as if fish are more important than people.”
“We were asked [by the grower opposition to the Brown petition] to be reasonable. We were asked to think about precedent. We were told the Browns want to live in a bubble. In fact what the Browns are asking for is no different [from the growers]. They are asking for their property rights …. Why is this not the best place for the Browns to live? Where’s the rationale that we can advance that farms have a right not only to apply pesticides to their land but also via drift to property next to them?” Regarding the lack of absolute scientific proof of the Browns’ medical condition, Lewis asked rhetorically whether the Board had any comparable “scientific basis” for many other provisions in the Board’s regulations: the 500-foot sensitive area designation, the 20% residue standard for off-target drift.
In response to doubts by other members of the Board about the effectiveness of a pesticide ban to cure the MCS condition, Lewis observed, “We can’t solve the health problems of the Browns, but I don’t think we can add to them. The obligation that we have is to find out how we can assure the Browns that there’s going to be zero pesticide drift on to their property.” Lewis later conceded that the task before the Board – to provide the Browns protection and not to interfere with the farmers’ production – was “absolutely challenging.”
A brief discussion followed Lewis’ remarks, followed by a motion by Carol Eckert, seconded by Jo D. Saffeir, to proceed with developing a Critical Pesticide Control Area, with a pesticide management plan that would “limit but not absolutely forbid” application of pesticides within the zone. Lewis and Litzerman voted for the motion to carry it. Holyoke, Crane and Dann opposed it – Holyoke emphasizing existing regulations on pesticide drift, Crane noting the Crabtrees’ voluntary efforts to control drift, and Dann saying he was “struck dumb by the potential economic impact on the community” of seeking to ensure the Browns were not exposed to drift.
The Board’s work on crafting the provisions of a Critical Pesticide Control rule in Hope were to continue at its February 18 meeting. It has until April 29, 2000, to finally approve the rule.
In other developments at the BPC:
• the BPC staff proposal to license all growers (including organic) who use pesticides, either general or restricted use, appears to be dead, or at least comatose. BPC Executive Director Bob Batteese confirmed that no proposal is being actively considered by the Board along these lines. At the December BPC meeting, Deputy Ag. Commissioner Linda Dyer Smith indicated that the Department is interested in developing, in cooperation with the Board, a more complete mailing list of growers. One use of such a list would be to keep growers better informed about pesticide precautions, IPM alternatives, and so on.
• The BPC is compiling lists of individuals to serve on two subcommittees intended to move off first base on implementing the 1997 Act to Minimize Reliance on Pesticides: one to address the task of compiling data on quantities of pesticides sold in Maine; the other to address broader policy questions on how to accomplish the goals of the act. Interested persons should contact LeBelle Hicks at the BPC, 287-2731.
• A BPC report on 1999 commodity-specific ground water monitoring for pesticide residues found that groundwater in 59% of the samples taken in the vicinity of blueberry lands was contaminated with pesticides – all but one sample contaminated with hexazinone, the other with Propiconizole. The only other commodity that showed any detections was potatoes, with 4% detection – of the pesticide Endosulfan in one sample and Metribuzin in three. The BPC found, however, no groundwater contamination above the health advisory limit in 159 samples taken for nine different commodity groups. The percentage of detection in blueberries was down from 75% of samples taken in 1994.
• In its 1999 Resistance Management Summary submitted to the BPC by Monsanto as required by the resistance management agreement for its NewLeaf genetically engineered Bt potato, Monsanto states that in 1999, 1733 acres of NewLeaf potatoes were grown for commercial use in Maine on 28 farms; 675 acres of NewLeaf seed potatoes were grown. The highest percentage of NewLeaf potatoes was 52% on one farm; all others had 35% or less. The agreement calls for a 20% refuge of conventional potatoes. Monsanto represented that the potato was “100% effective in every field,” and that no evidence of resistance was found.
• Lawn care company TruGreen Chemlawn of Westbrook agreed to pay a $2000 fine for violating Cape Elizabeth resident Joanne Spear’s request for advance notification of a pesticide application; the size of the fine reflected the fact that in 1998, the same company had entered into a consent agreement for violations of notification requirements in 1996 and 1997.
• the BPC’s annual Program Evaluation Report (Oct. 1999), delivered to the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, highlights its “continuing difficulties meeting legislative mandates.” The report notes that “public interest in pesticide issues remains at a high level and the Board and staff are increasingly frustrated that sufficient resources are not available to carry out certain mandates adopted over the years by the Maine Legislature.” Among the mandates the Board admits are not adequately fulfilled: 1983 legislation requiring the Board to conduct health and environmental risk assessments for all chemicals in Maine; and the 1997 act requiring the Board to publish an annual report of pesticide sales and use data. The Board also cited the need for a funded statewide surface water monitoring program for chemical contaminants, and expressed concern about the resources that would be required to address the licensing of additional genetically engineered crops, and to address citizen petitions for Critical Pesticide Control areas around their homes.
– Sharon Tisher