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New Rules Aim To Improve Bt Corn Refuge ComplianceNew Rules Aim To Improve Bt Corn Refuge Compliance

In an effort to make sure farmers are complying with the refuge rules when planting Bt insect-resistant corn hybrids, EPA has mandated seed corn companies put several new requirements in their refuge assurance programs for 2011 growing season.

February 14, 2011

4 Min Read

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, which are the seed corn companies who sell corn hybrids that have the Bt trait, are incorporating these new requirements (outlined below) into their Compliance Assurance Programs for the 2011 growing season:

* 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 (integrated refuge management) compliance practices each year through EPA mandated on-farm assessments. Growers who do not comply with refuge requirements can lose access to the technology. Similarly, seed dealers who do not follow through on their commitments stand to lose the ability to sell the products. 

"Biotechnology is an important part of modern agriculture's ability to sustainably meet the worlds increasing demands for food, feed and fuel," says Chad Blindauer, chair of the National Corn Growers Association's Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. "Given the benefits of Bt seed products, farmers and trait providers have a duty to ensure proper stewardship to keep this technology viable and on the market."

Survey shows IRM compliance by growers remained stable in 2010

The Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee, a consortium of Bt corn registrants, recently reported that corn IRM compliance for the 2010 growing season remained unchanged from 2009. The committee also reports that 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 surveyed planted the required size of refuge on their farms and the majority of growers surveyed planted a refuge within the required distance for all of their Bt cornfields. The survey also indicates that the vast majority of all Bt cornfields have an associated refuge. These findings are similar to those in the surveys conducted over the previous three years.

New rules help growers understand importance of IRM compliance

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 ABSTC 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 ABSTC 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.

IRM calculator helps growers develop plans for refuge compliance

As the 2011 planting season approaches, the National Corn Growers Association reminds Bt corn growers that the development of an IRM plan for their farm is an essential and required part of their planning process. In addition to information provided by seed dealers and the Bt trait providers, the NCGA has established a number of resources for growers developing IRM plans and a refuge strategy for their farm. NCGA recently launched a new IRM calculator to help clarify refuge system options and show growers how to execute the requirements properly. The IRM calculator was developed in collaboration with seed companies to ensure that it reflected all Bt products available in the industry today. The IRM calculator is available at www.irmcalculator.com. "In addition to protecting current technology, adherence to refuge requirements is important for the commercialization of next generation biotech traits," says Blindauer. "Future traits that build on today's technology will only be successful if today's technology remains effective."

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