Issue No. 1, Article 6/March 23, 2007
Please Don't Forget About Non-Bt Corn Refuges
Much of the talk about insect management during the winter meeting season focused on the expected widespread planting of transgenic corn hybrids with single, double, and especially triple (the "triple stacks") traits intended for herbicide resistance or tolerance and insect resistance. Accompanying these discussions were rumors that some producers had decided they would not plant non-Bt refuges with their Bt corn hybrids this spring. This near-term and shortsighted decision will threaten the long-term viability and availability of these excellent caterpillar- and rootworm-resistant hybrids. And we remind producers who purchased Bt corn seed that they signed an agreement with the seed company indicating their intent to plant the required refuges.
We won't bother to remind everyone about the rationale supporting 20% non-Bt corn refuges as part of the insect resistance management strategy for Bt corn. And we understand why corn growers might want to ignore the refuge requirement in an effort to obtain more yield. However, it is very important to understand that widespread noncompliance with insect resistance management will likely result in additional and unwelcome regulations. It is also important to understand that the development of insects that are resistant to Bt on any given farm ultimately becomes everyone's problem. We understand that growers want to produce more corn to meet the increasing demand, and the economic situation is enticing. But short-term gains in yield would be trumped significantly by widespread unavailability or failure of Bt corn technology.
The seed companies are making a concerted effort to inform corn growers about the implications of ignoring insect resistance management strategies for Bt corn. We offer our support for their efforts and hope that the rumors overheard this past winter were mostly false.--Kevin Steffey and Mike Gray