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Published: Thursday, 3/20/2003

Ohio won't ban disputed chemical


Ohio is not following Michigan's lead in banning a weed-killer blamed for contaminating water in some states.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture will allow restricted use of the farm herbicide isoxaflutole to continue as long as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers it safe to do so, Melanie Witt, state agriculture spokesman, said.

Isoxaflutole is the active chemical in a product called Balance Pro, which the U.S. EPA approved for use on a conditional basis in 1998. That gave states the option of either banning it on their own or limiting it to those certified to buy and apply it.

Michigan has banned Balance Pro since 2001, claiming it has not been tested enough. The federal EPA has approved its use in 17 states, but its active chemical is listed as a potential carcinogen and has been found in surface and ground water in some of those states, officials have said.

No problems have been documented in Ohio, though the state's experience with Balance Pro is limited. It was certified for use in Ohio in October, 2001, Ms. Witt said. It is registered for use in Ohio through June, 2004. “It gives an opportunity to re-evaluate the product,” she said.

Balance Pro's supporters renewed efforts in Michigan to use the product on cornfields there. They said they need something to combat weeds that build up a resistance to other herbicides.

Keith Creagh, Michigan deputy agriculture director, said Monday the latest request has been rejected. His boss, Dan Wyant, state agriculture director, followed a staff recommendation that warned of potential risks, officials said.

In a letter to the manufacturer, Bayer Crop Science, Michigan's Kenneth Rauscher cited concerns about stream sampling results in Nebraska and Missouri. Mr. Rauscher is the Michigan agriculture department's pesticide and plant management director.

Company officials maintain the product is safe.

Dave Dempsey, Michigan Environmental Council policy adviser, called the state's action prudent.

Balance Pro was approved for use in Wisconsin last year, but with so many restrictions that Bayer Crop decided not to sell it there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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