The National Corn Growers Association says farmers who do not follow EPA's refuge guidelines for corn containing the bacillus thuringiensis or Bt gene in 2004 may not be allowed to plant those varieties in 2005.
Those include farmers in cotton growing areas of the South and Southeast who may not plant more than 50 percent of their acreage in Bt varieties that are resistant to corn borers and other insects under EPA's insect resistance management guidelines.
“For the first time, there may be growers who will be denied access to the Bt technology for the 2005 growing season if they do not meet the refuge requirements again in 2004,” the NCGA said in a press release to its members.
“Under the Compliance Assurance Program — an EPA-approved IRM awareness and compliance program implemented in 2002 — growers who have been found not meeting IRM refuge requirements in two consecutive years, can be denied access to Bt corn borer resistant corn in the third year.”
As a CAP requirement, seed company registrants of Bt corn borer resistant corn are responsible for evaluating the extent to which growers are adhering to IRM requirements through on-farm visits and an annual grower compliance survey.
Established in 1999, IRM refuge requirements were enacted to help prevent corn insect pests, such as the European corn borer, from developing resistance to Bt technology, enabling the technology to be used well into the future, the NCGA said.
According to these requirements, growers are obligated to plant at least a 20 percent refuge, with Bt corn fields located within one-half mile (preferably one-quarter mile) of the refuge. In certain corn/cotton areas of the South, growers are required to plant at least a 50 percent corn refuge.
“Research confirms that farmers growing the majority of Bt corn acres value the technology and are adhering to IRM requirements,” said Helen Inman, NCGA Biotech Working Group chairman. “As efforts to elevate the importance of IRM and implementation of IRM practices continue to increase, so does grower compliance. Every effort is being made to provide growers with the right information so they can make informed-decisions that result in added value to their business — economic and environmental.
“We do not want any grower to be deprived of this valuable technology.”
A 2003 IRM grower compliance survey indicates 92 percent of farmers met regulatory requirements for IRM refuge size, while 93 percent met refuge distance requirements — an increase from 87 and 82 percent reported in 2000 when the survey began.
To help support IRM awareness efforts, NCGA recently launched the industry's first IRM online education center for growers — the Insect Resistance Management Learning Center.
Developed by NCGA and the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Committee — a coalition of the four Bt corn borer registrants — the IRMLC provides a comprehensive overview on the principles of IRM. (The ABSTC includes Dow AgroSciences; Monsanto Co.; Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a DuPont Co.; and Syngenta Seeds Inc.
Available free-of-charge at www.ncga.com, the IRMLC provides corn growers access to training on several topics, including IRM, Compliance Assurance Program (CAP), Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Corn Borer, and Corn Rootworm. Within each section, users of the IRMLC can complete a series of questions to reinforce their knowledge. Upon satisfactory completion, the user can print out a certificate of completion.
The NCGA also suggests growers consult with their seed dealers and seed company representatives to help ensure they understand IRM requirements. Growers also can visit the “Know Before You Grow” section of www.ncga.com for more information on Bt corn and the IRM requirements.