EPA Announces Compliance Program For Bt Corn

A new compliance program to help farmers meet the insect resistance management requirements for Bt corn has been announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC).

The program, called the Insect Resistance Management Compliance Assurance Program, is effective immediately. IRMCAP details how registrants of Bt corn are required to monitor, assist and deal with growers who do not follow IRM requirements.

ABSTC is comprised of four Bt corn registrants – Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Syngenta Seeds. It was formed to promote stewardship of Bt crops.

"The industry fully supports this program," said Michael Phillips, executive director of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, who was representing ABSTC during a recent teleconference.

"As biotechnology products become available, we’re very cognizant of how resistance in pests can make for a short life in these technologies. So if we don’t do a good job, the next generation of farmers won’t have access to this technology."

IRMCAP components include:

  • On-farm assessments conducted by the four Bt registrants to insure that growers are in compliance with IRM requirements.
  • Four mandatory responses from a seed company if a grower is found to have some IRM compliance deviations. These include: 1) sending the grower a warning letter, 2) conducting compliance assistance visits with the grower before planting the next season, 3) conducting compliance assessment visits during the next growing season to assure that the grower has met all IRM requirements, and 4) providing additional IRM educational materials to the grower.
  • Denied access to growers who want to grow Bt corn in the third year after not following IRM requirements the two consecutive years before.
  • A requirement that all Bt corn growers must follow the same IRM requirements, no matter what company they purchase seed from.
  • Knowledge that seed dealers who knowingly sell Bt corn to non-compliant growers, risk losing their right to sell the technology.

    IRMCAP must also contain the following four components:

  • Bt corn registrants are required to sponsor an annual survey, conducted by a third party, to measure the degree of adherence to IRM requirements.

    Each registrant must implement a program for investigating legitimate tips and complaints about growers who may be out of compliance with their IRM obligations.

  • Seed company representatives who make on-farm calls are required to be trained to assess grower adherence to IRM requirements.
  • Registrants must establish and publicize a phased compliance approach describing how instances of noncompliance with IRM requirements will be addressed.

    "I applaud EPA for presenting a very reasonable and workable plan," says Fred Yoder, president of the National Corn Growers Association, and a grower from Plain City, OH. "It’s not much different from what we were doing before except that it gives a little more accountability.

    "We have to show good stewardship and we want to make sure that every grower does the right thing. We also have to prove that we can do this ourselves. We’ve done a good job of complying so far," added Yoder, who estimates that 90% of corn producers currently follow IRM requirements.

  • IRM requirements issued by EPA in October, 2001 include:

  • that each Bt grower must plant at least a 20% non-Bt corn refuge, except in certain cotton-growing areas where at least a 50% non-Bt corn refuge is required.
  • that refuge planting options of blocks within fields; strips across the field at least four rows wide (preferably six rows wide); or as separate fields.
  • that Bt corn fields must be planted within one-half mile of a refuge.

For more information about how to design an IRM program for your farm, contact a seed dealer. You can also go to the National Corn Growers Association Web site, www.ncga.com.