By Union for Concerned Scientists
November 2009 FEED
Farmers growing 13.23 million acres of genetically engineered (GE) corn to kill insect pests aren’t complying with federal requirements, according to a new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. [See Complacency on the Farm: Significant Noncompliance with EPA’s Refuge Requirements Threatens the Future Effectiveness of Genetically Engineered Pest-protected Corn, pdf]
GE corn contains a gene obtained from a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt), and this gene leads to production of insecticides within the plant. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires companies that sell Bt crops to set up a system under which farmers must plant refuges (areas planted with non-Bt corn) to prevent pests from developing resistance to Bt.
“Refuges are crucial to preventing insect pests from developing resistance to Bt. The EPA must do whatever it takes—levy fines against companies or suspend their sales of Bt-corn seed—to force the companies to ensure farmers’ compliance with refuge requirements.” ~ Jane Rissler, Senior Scientist/Deputy Director, Food & Environment
However, neither the EPA nor the companies are ensuring compliance with refuge rules. If insect pests develop resistance, Bt insecticides will no longer be effective and farmers who are now using Bt crops will turn to synthetic insecticides that are harmful to the environment and people.
Organic farmers, who are allowed to use Bt insecticides on crops as a natural means of pest control, would also lose a valuable tool.
Read the report (pdf).