Monsanto To Enforce Bt Corn Refuge Rules

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Monsanto Canada plans to give corn growers one warning to keep a refuge of at least 20 per cent in fields of Bt corn, after which it will cut off growers who still don’t comply.

The Canadian arm of the U. S. seed and chemical firm announced its new enforcement policy Mar. 1, in the wake of warnings from the corn industry that Canadian growers are “slipping significantly” in maintaining refuge acres.

Under Monsanto’s new policy, Bt corn growers who are found to be non-compliant during random field assessments will get letters advising them of the importance of a “properly configured” refuge, and that they can expect a followup assessment in the next growing season.

Once that happens, a corn grower who’s been warned but doesn’t keep a proper refuge in a Bt corn crop the following year “will lose access to Bt technologies licensed by Monsanto” such as its YieldGard varieties.

The first letters of non-compliance under the new policy will be sent out this winter, the company said.

“Planting a properly configured refuge when using corn hybrids with in-plant Bt insect control is absolutely critical to protecting the long-term viability and effectiveness of these technologies,” Chris Anderson, stewardship lead for Winnipegbased Monsanto Canada, said in a release.

Genetically modified (GM) crops with the Bt trait contain a selective endotoxin protein which kills insect predators, such as corn borers, that feed on a GM plant’s tissues.

Seed breeders and other ag scientists agree that targeted insects such as European corn borer and corn rootworm could develop resistance to the Bt protein. Approval of Bt crops by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency comes with a refuge requirement, Monsanto said.

“With refuge compliance figures on the decline it is more important than ever to increase awareness of the importance of insect resistance management to Canadian farmers,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s statement referred to a warning from the Canadian Corn Pest Coalition last week, in which the industry stakeholders’ group said Canadian corn growers’ refuge compliance rates have dropped to 61 per cent in 2009 from up to 80 per cent in 2005.

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