New rules for Bt compliance
In an effort to improve Bt corn refuge compliance by farmers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated new requirements as part of the Bt corn re-registration process this past fall.
The Bt corn registrants (seed corn companies who sell corn hybrids that have the Bt trait) have put the new requirements into their Compliance Assurance Program for 2011:
• On-farm refuge compliance assessments will be conducted by an independent third-party and will be focused on areas of highest risk of insect pest resistance development, and on growers who did not buy sufficient refuge seed from the Bt corn registrant.
• Growers found to be out of compliance with the refuge requirements will now have a higher probability of losing access to Bt corn if compliance is not established and maintained, and they will be checked more frequently by the Bt corn registrants.
• Seed bag tags will better depict refuge size requirements.
Under the Compliance Assurance Program, thousands of growers are surveyed about their IRM, or integrated refuge management, compliance practices each year through EPA-mandated on-farm assessments. Growers who don’t comply with refuge requirements can lose access to the technology. Similarly, seed dealers who don’t follow through on their commitments stand to lose the ability to sell the products.
Meeting world food demands
“Biotechnology is an important part of modern agriculture’s ability to sustainably meet the world’s increasing demands for food, feed and fuel,” says Chad Blindauer, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. “Given the benefits of Bt seed, farmers and trait providers have a duty to ensure proper stewardship to keep this technology viable and on the market.”
The Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee, a consortium of Bt corn registrants, reports corn IRM compliance for the 2010 growing season remained unchanged from 2009.
The committee also says the compliance assurance programs for corn borer-protected, corn rootworm-protected and corn borer/corn rootworm-protected stacked Bt corn continue to be effective.
In 2010, the majority of growers that were checked planted the required size of refuge on their farms, and the majority planted a refuge within the required distance for all of their Bt cornfields.
Also, the vast majority of all Bt cornfields had an associated refuge. The findings are similar to those in surveys conducted the previous three years.
Today, growers have more product choices offering unique IRM requirements, which can complicate refuge planning. It is encouraging to see compliance results stabilizing, but there is room for improvement, the report says.
The stewardship committee is optimistic that the Compliance Assurance Program enhancements, along with collaborative IRM education efforts, will help growers understand the importance of following refuge requirements and provide direction on how to meet the minimum refuge requirements for each product.
“Since the introduction of biotech traits, the vast majority of corn growers have followed refuge requirements to help protect the efficacy of this important technology,” says Blindauer. “All growers must follow these requirements to help preserve the long-term value of this technology.”
The committee submitted the results to EPA as part of the 2010 Bt corn IRM Compliance Assurance Program report, which includes an annual report of compliance results and a summary of actions being taken by Bt registrants to promote and support IRM compliance for the upcoming growing season.
Source: NCGA, EPA
Tool helps clarify refuge system options
This article published in the March, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.