The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC) have announced a new compliance program to help farmers meet the insect resistance management requirements for Bt corn.

The new 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, Biotechnology Industry Organization, 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.”

Components of IRMCAP include:

  • The four Bt registrants will be conducting on-farm assessments to insure that growers are in compliance with IRM requirements.
  • If a grower is found to have some IRM compliance deviations, the seed company is required to follow four mandatory responses. These include sending the grower a warning letter, conducting compliance assistance visits with the grower prior to planting the next season, conducting compliance assessment visits during the next growing season to assure that the grower has met all the IRM requirements, and providing additional IRM educational materials to the grower.
  • Growers who do not follow IRM requirements in two consecutive years will be denied access to Bt corn in the third year.
  • All Bt corn growers must follow the same IRM requirements, no matter what company they purchase seed from.
  • In addition, if a seed dealer knowingly sells Bt corn to a non-compliant grower, he risks losing his 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.
  • The 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,” said Fred Yoder, president, National Corn Growers Association, and grower from Plain City, Ohio. “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 percent of corn producers currently follow IRM requirements.

IRM requirements issued by EPA in October 2001 are:

  • A Bt grower must plant at least a 20 percent non-Bt corn refuge, except in certain cotton-growing areas where at least a 50 percent non-Bt corn refuge is required.
  • Refuge planting options include: blocks within fields; strips across the field at least four-rows wide (preferably six-rows wide); or as separate fields.
  • 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.