Concerns About Refuge Acres

Even with new innovations coming for maintaining refuge acres with genetically engineered (GE) corn, there’s solid evidence that many growers are not meeting the current requirements. In fact, one out of every four growers who plants genetically engineered corn is failing to comply with at least one important insect-resistance management requirement, claim staffers with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in Washington, D.C.

Consider these statistics from 2008:

  • Only 78% of growers planting corn-borer-protected crops met the refuge size requirement. Some 88% met the distance requirement.
  • Only 74% of growers planting rootworm-protected crops met the refuge size requirement. Some 37% of growers did not meet the distance requirement.
  • Only 72% of farmers growing stacked hybrids that protected against both corn borer and rootworm met the refuge size requirement. Only 66% met the distance requirement.

These rates are down from 2003 to 2005 when compliance rates were often above 90%.

Those findings come from a CSPI report that calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to refuse to renew registrations of GE corn varieties unless compliance rates improve. They also want to impose penalties on growers who don’t follow the rules.

More Compliance Needed

“Given the stakes, regulators should insist on compliance rates much closer to 100% to prevent insect problems that threaten all farmers, not just those planting biotech crops,” says Greg Jaffe, the CSPI biotechnology director.

In 2009, more than 60% of the U.S. corn acreage was planted to corn with genes from the Bacillus thuringienis…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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