WATERVILLE (AP) – 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 their that 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 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 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.