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Study: Corn growers responsible managers of Bt technology

(Sunday, Dec. 21, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

AgWeb: A survey completed by the EPA reveals that a large majority of corn growers responsibly managed Bt hybrids. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) says the survey confirmed that corn growers are practicing good stewardship and properly following Insect Resistance Management (IRM) requirements to help avoid corn insect pests, such as the European corn borer, from developing resistance to Bt corn.

The survey found 86 percent of growers who planted Bt corn in 2002 met at least the minimum refuge size IRM requirement. Eighty-nine percent of growers (and 94% of Bt corn fields) met the distance requirement.

Additionally, the survey results indicate that almost 80% of the growers who used insecticides regularly (four or five of the previous five years) report decreasing their insecticide use to control corn borers since the introduction of Bt corn.

There are two main IRM requirements established by the EPA that growers must follow when planting Bt corn. One involves the size of the non-Bt corn refuge and the other involves the distance between Bt corn and the refuge. EPA requirements say growers must maintain at least a 20 percent non-Bt corn refuge. In certain corn/cotton areas of the South, growers are required to plant at least a 50 percent non-Bt corn refuge. In all areas, every Bt cornfield must be located within one half mile of a refuge cornfield. The survey results also confirmed findings from previous years that the vast majority of growers (93%) believe IRM is important. The survey showed a sharp increase in grower awareness and familiarity of IRM requirements in 2002. Eighty-eight percent of Bt corn growers said they were aware of IRM requirements, which is 8 percentage points higher than in 2001. Additionally, 89 percent of Bt corn growers said they received enough information to properly implement a refuge in 2002, an increase from 74 percent in 2001.

More than 550 growers responded to the survey conducted during the 2002 growing season among Bt corn users in the Corn Belt and Cotton Belt. The survey was conducted in cooperation with NCGA by an independent research firm for the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC).