Monsanto research wins federal OK

Monsanto Co. has received federal approval for its work to develop seed that is more resistant to corn rootworm, a type of insect pest that feeds on and damages corn crops.

The bioengineering company did not say whether the research will include its fields on Maui and Molokai.

Monsanto received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, one of three federal agencies that regulate biotechnology crops in the United States, in March for an experimental use permit to develop new varieties of plants with “a better combination of traits, including built-in pest resistance,” company officials said.

“This particular permit does not involve spraying or mechanically applying any experimental or research pesticide,” Monsanto Hawaii spokeswoman Carol Reimann said in a statement.

Tests to control corn rootworm were authorized from this past March through Feb. 28, 2015, according to the experimental use permit. Notification of the EPA permit appeared in Saturday’s edition of “The Environmental Notice” published by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The permit allows the seed company to conduct the research in Puerto Rico and 22 states, including Hawaii. While company officials were “unable to provide information about specific field sites,” Monsanto has fields on Oahu, Maui and Molokai.

Last week, Mayor Alan Arakawa signed a memorandum of understanding with Monsanto, obtaining assurances from the company that it will engage in safe practices involving restricted-use pesticides, according to a county announcement.