Maine Taking Steps To Allow Bt Corn

Maine has been the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t permit the planting of Bt corn, but that might be about to change. The state’s Board of Pesticide Control licensed the genetically engineered corn this past summer and recently held a public hearing on proposed rules regulating its use in the state. Bt corn could be used for the first time in Maine as soon as 2008.

Maine residents opposed to Bt corn voice concerns about contamination of conventional crops and the spread of pesticide-resistant insects. They say studies show toxins from Bt corn can travel long distances in waterways and harm insects that serve as food for fish, and that soil insects also can be affected

Opponents are asking the board to reconsider its approval of Bt corn. Other opponents are calling for strict rules to govern the use of Bt corn in the state.

Maine’s proposed regulations include licensing for Bt corn, requiring dealers to keep records of sales and training for anyone planting Bt corn.

Bt corn — genetically engineered to produce a toxin lethal to corn pests, particularly the European corn borer — was licensed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1996. Bt corn accounts for roughly 35 percent of corn acreage in the United States and its use is increasing.

However, a recent report issued by the National Academy of Sciences points to unresolved ecological concerns from planting genetically engineered crops.

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