Last fall, in an attempt to tighten up Bt corn refuge requirements and oversight, the EPA imposed new refuge regulations. According to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), those requirements are:

  • On-farm refuge compliance assessments will be conducted by an independent third-party and will be focused on: areas of highest risk of insect pest resistance development; and, growers who did not buy sufficient refuge seed from the Bt corn registrant.
  • Growers out of compliance with the refuge requirements now have a higher probability of losing access to Bt corn if compliance is not established and maintained. Such compliance will be checked more frequently by the Bt corn registrants.
  • Seed bag tags will better depict refuge size requirements

Southwest Farm Press recently spoke with Chad Blindauer, a South Dakota farmer and chairman of NCGA’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team about the Bt requirements. Among his comments:

First, any comment on the deregulation of corn amylase?

We’re very encouraged by that and have been waiting for (the deregulation) for quite some time. We’ve been pushing for deregulation all along.

“It’s approved in almost all major export markets. Receiving approval in the United States is a good thing. We’re excited with the approval.”

What about millers saying the amylase trait could get out and make chips soggier and whatnot?

“The amylase corn will be grown only under contract, in specific areas close to ethanol plants. It’s a closed-loop system, a good system. The chances of (the trait) getting out of that system are almost none because of how they’ve set it up.

“This is a good opportunity for a farmer who finds it a good fit.”

More on refuge compliance...

“I’m the chair of the Biotech Working Group with the NCGA. We work on this every year. It’s a never-ending process to ensure compliance. For the biotechnology end of it with these traits, it’s extremely important we follow the refuge guidelines.

“We’re always talking about this. These improvements will definitely help and we’re taking a step in the right direction.

“The numbers for 2010 (showing those complying with refuge requirements) held steady from 2009. That’s a good sign.”

On how the EPA’s call for an “independent third party” to monitor Bt-corn farms will work…

“Actually, that isn’t a new thing. Some companies were already using a third party to do their assessments. Now, though, it’s mandated that all companies use a third party” and don’t have the option of doing the assessment internally.

“And they aren’t all using the same third party – actually, some companies hire several third parties. There are different companies that contract to do this work. Some of it is regional – a certain company might cover only a certain area.”