GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

APPROVAL: Maine last U.S. state to allow Bt corn




                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  MAINE LAST STATE TO ALLOW GENETICALLY ALTERED CORN

SOURCE: The Barre Times & Montpelier Argus, USA

AUTHOR: The Associated Press

URL:    http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070729/NEWS02/707290392/1003/NEWS02

DATE:   29.07.2007

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


MAINE LAST STATE TO ALLOW GENETICALLY ALTERED CORN

WATERVILLE, Maine — Maine is joining the rest of the country in allowing farmers to grow a type of genetically altered corn.?The Board of Pesticides Control voted to let farmers grow the crop that’s resistant to insects. It’ll be used only for animal feed as it is in other states, and the seed companies will have to provide sales data to the state.?Organic growers have been concerned that their crops will be contaminated by cross-pollination with the genetically modified corn.?But the Board of Pesticides Control said Friday that its mandate of reducing pesticide use and its concern about state farmers being at a competitive disadvantage without the genetically altered feed trumped those concerns.?”If we don’t take advantage of this technology, these farmers may not be here in five or 10 years down the road,” board member Richard Stevenson said.?Critics urged the board not to cave to pressure for Maine to follow the rest of the nation in adopting the use of Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, corn. They said the modified corn poses a potential threat to wildlife and plants, as well as people.?”This technology has been out there about a generation,” said Peggy Gannon of Stetson, ”and there have been no long-term tests on humans.”?Organic growers have their own concerns: contamination of their crops and possible revocation of their organic certification.?But Pittsfield farmer Tom Cote argued that eliminating use of some pesticides by growing Bt corn will be a net gain for the environment.?Farmers like Cote say they’ll be able to reduce the use of expensive pesticides.?”I believe Bt crops are a bit better for the environment and the people who have to handle them,” Cote said.?The board voted to mitigate the possible risks by developing rules for how the modified corn is grown to address some of the concerns of organic farmers.?The three companies that petitioned to sell the corn — Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Monsanto — also will be required to provide sales data to the state so it can track the use of the seed.?”We have to weigh that risk against pretty clearly defined benefits,” said board member Daniel Simonds, a forestry consultant. ”I’m having a hard time seeing the net adverse effect as being unreasonable.”



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  MODIFIED CORN OK'D FOR MAINE FARMERS

SOURCE: Bangor Daily News, USA

AUTHOR: Sharon Kiley Mack

URL:    http://bangordailynews.com/news/t/news.aspx?articleid=152545&zoneid=500

DATE:   28.07.2007

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


MODIFIED CORN OK'D FOR MAINE FARMERS

WATERVILLE, Maine - After pleas from farmers on both sides of the issue, Maine’s Bureau of Pesticides Control on Friday approved the registration of corn that is genetically engineered with a natural pesticide. Maine is the last state in the country to allow the modified corn to be sold or grown.

While dairy farmers said they needed the greater-yielding corn to maintain a competitive edge, organic growers said they feared for the health of Maine’s residents.

”This technology has been out there about a generation,” testified Peggy Gannon of Stetson, ”and there have been no long-term tests on humans.” Gannon and others asked the Bureau of Pesticides Control to wait for approval until next spring to give the Legislature time to review new liability rules for planting genetically engineered crops.

”Maine doesn’t have this [engineered corn]. We are the only state because we’re smarter,” said Andrea DeFrancesca of Franklin.

Dairy farmers, however, asked the bureau to allow them the same tools that other farmers across the country are using, saying they could save money and environmental costs by eliminating pesticide spraying and growing a bigger, disease-free crop.

The genetically engineered corn approved Friday is Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, corn.

Bt corn — which is used only for cow feed, not for human consumption — is genetically engineered to produce pesticidal proteins from the naturally occurring soil-borne Bt bacteria that kill certain insects. As such, the corn seed is considered a pesticide, which is why it requires BPC approval.

Members of the BPC said they recognized that Bt corn may require special management because of concerns the pollen may drift to organic corn.

”This is not Kansas,” said BPC member Daniel Simonds. Referring to the different geography in Maine and how varying farms abut each other, he said, ”The spatial management of this is quite complex and may be hard to monitor.”

To deal with those concerns, the BPC approved the corn with two conditions: that an educational program be offered by the chemical companies, and that sales records be provided to the BPC to allow monitoring of how much and where the corn is planted.

The BPC held the hearing after a request filed in March by three biotech companies — Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Monsanto — on behalf of dozens of Maine farmers. The companies submitted applications to register seven Bt field corn products, all used as feed for animals.

Organic farmers at Friday’s hearing testified that drift from Bt corn could contaminate their certified organic crops and possibly open them up to copyright infringement lawsuits from the chemical companies that manufacture the seeds.

Jody Spear of Co-Op Voices Unite said Bt corn poses unacceptable risks, including liver and kidney damage, allergies and asthma, as well as posing risks to other plants and animals.

”Consider that one out of every three bites of food has been pollinated by honeybees. You need to tread carefully,” she said.

Logan Perkins of Protect Maine Farmers said the issue was not just about organic certification. ”It is about the market, about consumer confidence and the farmers’ ability to save seed.”

But conventional dairy farmers argued that organic farms represent a small percentage of Maine agriculture and the ”tail shouldn’t wag the dog.”

Dairy farmers from Knox, Pittsfield and Exeter testified Friday that using Bt corn will give them a competitive edge and allow them to stop spraying their fields with pesticides, which sometimes is done three times a season.

James Crane, an Exeter dairy farmer, raises 2,400 acres of crops with nearly 1,000 acres in corn, and pays $13 an acre to spray with pesticides.

He said Bt corn already is being imported into the state as cattle feed. ”It is coming into the state by rail cars. Allow me to compete,” he said.

The BPC began investigating Bt corn in 1994, conducting technical reviews to look for adverse effects on human health and for potential development of insect resistance.

According to Dr. John Jemison, an agronomist at the University of Maine in Orono, these reviews were conducted in 1997 after applications were filed to register three Bt corn products. The human health review concluded there were no concerns, and a process was established to identify any development of insect resistance. The registrations were denied, however, because Maine’s pesticide statute requires that a need or benefit be demonstrated for the products. No such information was available at that time.

At Friday’s hearing, the BPC members concluded that Maine farmers needed the edge provided by planting Bt corn.

”If we don’t take advantage of this technology, these farmers may not be here in five or 10 years down the road,” BPC member Richard Stevenson said.

The BPC will draft a new rule which then will be advertised by the Secretary of State’s Office and a formal public hearing will be held in the future.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN GAINS APPROVAL

SOURCE: Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinal, USA

AUTHOR: Craig Crosby

URL:    http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/news/local/4130296.html

DATE:   28.07.2007

------------------ archive:  http://www.genet-info.org/ ------------------


GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN GAINS APPROVAL

WATERVILLE -- Maine joined the rest of the nation Friday when the Board of Pesticides Control approved the use of a genetically modified corn that is resistant to insects.

Citing a mandate to try to reduce the use of pesticides, the board approved applications by Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Monsanto to register seven Bt corn products to be grown for animal feed.

While allowing the corn to be grown in Maine for the first time, the board plans to develop rules for the crops use to alleviate organic farmers' fears of contamination.

"I'm only going to be able to say there aren't unreasonable risks if we add some conditions (for use)," said Chairwoman Carol A. Eckert, M.D.

The board voted 6-0 in favor of both the motion to approve the applications under the conditions the three companies report sales data to the board and support education and training. The board also agreed 6-0 -- John Jemison Jr. abstained from both votes for unstated reasons -- to develop rules for use.

Those rules, and how they are enforced, will be key to many of the roughly 60 people who filled the room at the Hampton Inn for Friday's meeting. While conventional farmers argued that the Bt corn will help make them competitive with corn growers around the country, organic farmers raised concerns of genetic drift, the creation of super-resistant bugs, and also the health and welfare of people and animals.

"We should not be endangering our food supplies with dangerous, biotech gambles," said Jody Spear of the Sierra Club.

The board considered the applications in two primary areas -- whether the Bt corn would have an adverse affect on the environment and if farmers had shown a need to use the crop.

Genetic drift, the cross pollination of a genetically modified crop with a non-modified crop, may occur, said Jemison, a water quality and soil specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Orono. European markets allow products to be labeled organic with up to 5 percent genetic modification.

"If zero is the intended goal, it's really always going to be difficult," Jemison said.

But Pittsfield farmer Tom Cote argued that eliminating use of some pesticides by growing Bt corn will be a net gain for the environment.

"I believe Bt crops are a bit better for the environment and the people who have to handle them," Cote said.

While acknowledging the risks, the board ultimately decided it could mitigate the dangers by educating users and encouraging conventional farmers and organic growers to work together to help reduce the chance of genetic drift.

"We have to weigh that risk against pretty clearly defined benefits," said board member Daniel Simonds, a forestry consultant. "I'm having a hard time seeing the net adverse affect as being unreasonable."

Board member Lee Humphreys, a market gardener, said there were too many unknowns about the genetically modified corn, such as its long-term effect on the soil and in creating resistant bugs.

"I think it might very well be a short-term solution and farmers will be forced to use more pesticides in the future," she said.

Humphreys also mentioned 108 letters the board received opposing use of the corn.

"We represent them as well," she said. Many of the organic growers who spoke against approving the corn suggested there was not a real need. Logan Perkins of Protect Maine Farmers noted the number of organic dairy farmers that survive without pesticides or Bt corn.

"If they can do it, why can't everyone else?" Perkins asked.

Using Bt corn will increase harvests an estimated 10 percent, which will help give farmers an important economic edge, said board member Richard Stevenson Jr., a commercial applicator for Modern Pest Services.

"It may not run a farm out of business today, but if they don't take advantage of these technologies, they may not be there 5 or 10 years down the road," Stevenson said.


-----------------------------

GENET

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

news & information

phone....... +49-531-5168746

fax......... +49-531-5168747

email....... news(*)genet-info.org

skype....... hartmut_meyer

url......... http://www.genet-info.org/