Before a packed meeting room, the Arkansas Plant Board unanimously ruled against allowing the Cheniere rice variety to be grown in the state in 2007.
The ruling, made at a Dec. 20 meeting at the board’s Little Rock headquarters, is in line with an earlier recommendation by the board’s seed committee and comes after much industry turmoil following the discovery of trace amounts of Bayer’s LL601 trait in the U.S. rice supply.
The banning of Cheniere is only one step in flushing the GM trait from the rice supply. Further proposals are expected to be discussed at a Plant Board Seed Committee meeting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 28.
Acknowledging the keen interest by the rice industry in the issue, Mark Waldrip, the seed committee chairman, invited “anyone with input … to be present (at the Dec. 28 meeting).”
With seedsmen preparing seed and a new cropping season rapidly approaching, the Plant Board is well aware of the need to have any GM rice-related regulations in place quickly. As a result, action is expected to be taken at the seed committee meeting. And it will be followed by an emergency session of the full Plant Board at 1 p.m.
Another hot topic — damaging herbicide drift on cotton — was also discussed.
George Tidwell, chairman of both the full Plant Board and the board’s pesticide committee, said the board received record 2,4-D complaints in 2006. “(There were) 115 from cotton growers in northeast Arkansas. The Plant Board has received numerous letters from cotton growers insisting that something more be done to help them with this problem.
“Many cotton growers … spoke to the (pesticide) committee urging its support of more protective regulations. Ken Smith (Arkansas Extension weed specialist) and Ford Baldwin (formerly Arkansas Extension weed specialist and now crop consultant and Delta Farm Press contributor) had both been to the area and provided the committee with the benefit of their expertise.
After discussion, the committee asked staff to provide the regulatory options based on the information presented and bring it to the committee (at its Oct. 14 meeting).
“At that time, regulatory proposals covered six variations of additional use restrictions for 2,4-D in the state. All included a ban on the use of 2,4-D between April 15 and Sept. 15 of each year and a hardship exemption when 2,4-D must be used.”
Among the questions the pesticide committee needed to tackle:
• Would the ban include both ground and aerial application?
• Would the ban be for four counties — Clay, Greene, Craighead and Poinsett — where the problem occurred in 2006?
• Would it be better to ban the chemistry in “an area east of Highway 67 north of I-40, as proposed by some growers?
• Or, would it be best to ban the chemistry in the whole state?
After discussion, Tidwell said the pesticide committee “chose to move forward with a statewide ban for aerial application only. The committee recommended to the full board that this regulatory proposal be allowed to proceed to public comment and hearings.”
The Plant Board then unanimously sent the motion back to the pesticide committee for further study.
Randy Veach, the Plant Board’s cotton farmer representative made a motion asking the pesticide committee to “look at increasing penalties for noncompliance to regulations for the application of 2,4-D and glyphosate.”
Asked why he was singling out those products, Veach said, “Lately we’ve had more noncompliance with these two (chemistries). … With the increased violations … we need to make the penalties more severe.”
Veach’s motion passed unanimously.