Insect Resistance Management Plans: The Farmer's Perspective
One of the most successful genetically modified crops is Bt corn, which has been modified to produce proteins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). These proteins are toxic to specific pests such as the European Corn Borer (ECB) and the corn rootworm (CRW). These Bt crops are highly effective at preventing insect damage, and as a result have been rapidly adopted since the release of Bt corn resistant to ECB in 1996 and Bt corn resistant to CRW in 2003. In 2005, Bt corn accounted for 35 percent of the corn acreage in the US either as a single trait or stack trait (NASS, 2005). The rapid adoption of Bt corn, particularly in specific regions of the US, has raised concerns about the development of insect resistance to Bt. Insect resistance to Bt poses a major risk to the producers currently benefiting from the technology and to other producers who depend on Bt as a pesticide, such as organic producers. In order reduce the risk of insect resistance to Bt, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued insect resistance management (IRM) guidelines in 2001 (EPA, 2001). Registrants of Bt crops are responsible for overseeing IRM plans and they implement them by having producers sign legally binding agreements. Under the IRM guidelines, producers in the primary corn growing regions are required to plant at least 20 percent of their corn to a refuge, i.e. non-Bt corn. Currently, there are four approved refuge configurations: the border of the field, a block within the field, splitting the planter so that there are strips through the field, or an adjacent field which is required to be across a ditch or road for CRW corn and within half a mile for ECB corn. Producers are permitted to treat the refuge corn with a non-Bt insecticide. The effectiveness of refuges at preventing insect resistance depends in part on producers’ compliance with the IRM plan regulations. Producers who are found to be not incompliance with the IRM plans for two years will face the penalty of no longer being allowed to purchase Bt crops (Wright and Hunt, 2004). IRM guidelines have been in effect for about 5 years. The EPA will review the IRM regulations related to CRW corn in 2006 when the registration of CRW corn needs to be renewed. In anticipation of these policy discussions about IRM plans, the purpose of this paper is to present survey and focus group results that describe farmers’ thoughts on and reactions to IRM plans.
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