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Michigan Bans Statewide Use of Controversial Herbicide
(from March 21, 2003)

On March 18, 2003, Michigan Department of Agriculture Director Dan Wyant rejected a request to allow the herbicide Balance Pro to be used on the state's 2.2 million acres of corn this spring. Balance Pro, which is manufactured by Bayer CropScience, contains the active ingredient isoxaflutole and is only registered for use on corn. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan Department of Agriculture decided not to use the herbicide due to concerns about the product's potential to contaminate surface water and ground water, its classification as a probable human carcinogen and the state's inability to monitor water quality.

Conservationists who opposed the herbicide said they were buoyed by the decision. "This is a really commendable action," said Dave Dempsey, policy advisor for the Michigan Environmental Council, which opposed Balance Pro. "It is one of the few times I've seen the Ag Department act in a precautionary way."

Michigan isn't the only state with a severe restriction or ban on the use of the herbicide. Last year, Wisconsin approved its use, but with so many restrictions that Bayer CropScience decided not to sell its product in the state. Some of these restrictions include: an outright ban in eight counties; ban on use in coarse soils with low organic matter, less than 25 feet to groundwater; ban on use before April 15th or after July 31st of any crop year; ban on use in tile-drained fields; and, requirement that farmers submit an irrigation management plan.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Balance Pro is registered for use in only 17 states, and has been detected in stream water in several of them. It has been used under a conditional registration from EPA since 1999. A conditional registration was issued by EPA because of data indicated that use may result in possible water contamination and effects on non-target plants, including vegetable crops.