Reduction in refuge compliance threatens technology

Iowa Farmer Today recently posted the article “Loss or reduction of Bt could harm farmers,” written by Roger Elmore, with the Iowa State University Department of Agronomy, and Aaron Gassman and Erin Hodson, Department of Entomology. Below is an excerpt from the article.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently released a report, stating a trend of decreasing compliance with corn refuge across the United States. In total, the report found that 13.2 million acres — an area equal to the size of Iowa’s corn crop — are not in compliance.

Why does refuge compliance matter?

Many scientists agree at refuges delay or prevent pests from developing Bt resistance because susceptible pests emerging from the refuge mate with resistant pests from the Bt field.  This dilutes the resistance genes and maintains susceptibility of pest populations to Bt corn. If refuges are too small or too far from Bt fields, a shortage of refuge insects to mate with insects from Bt fields will occur.

What’s at stake?

At least three issues come to mind:

  1. If compliance rates do not quickly improve, expect more demands for compliance, insistence to change the regulatory process, and/or steep penalties for noncompliance.
  2. Refuge requirements from an integral part of insect resistance management programs. If some producers continue to ignore these requirements, insects may develop resistance to Bt corn sooner.
  3. Third, every business enterprise — including corn production — bears a social role and responsibility.

Thanks to the 3 of every 4 corn growers who follow the refuge requirements.  For more information on refuge compliance, click here to read the full Iowa Farmer Today article, or click here to read our recent post, “Remember to Plant the Refuge.”