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EPA proposing limits on planting of GMO corn

Restrictions are an effort to combat pest resistance

By Diego Flammini,

In an effort to combat pest resistance in corn crops around the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing restrictions on the amount of corn containing the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) trait that farmers are allowed to plant.

The specific reason for the proposed restrictions is to try and reduce the impact of the corn rootworm.  Michael Gray, an entomologist from the University of Illinos at Urban-Champaign told The Wall Street Journal corn rootworm can cost farmers between $1 and $2 billion in damages.

If the EPA’s proposal is successful, farmers would have to follow better insect management protocols like crop rotations or planting a "refuge area" that includes corn witthout the Bt trait in areas that are susceptible to rootworms. The EPA’s concern is that if the rootworm becomes even more resistant, farmers will be forced to use more synthetic products which could pose a threat to the environment.

The EPA is suggesting about 35% of corn fields to be planted with another crop after two consecutive years of corn.

Many major seed companies have hybrids which contain the Bt trait. It is toxic to the pests but safe for human consumption. They also have insect management practices on their websites.

“To me, it should be more an individual decision and not the government telling us what to do,” Boyd Epperson, a corn farmer from Nebraska told The Wall Street Journal.

The issue is currently under a public comment period until March 16. The EPA will finalize new recommendations afterwards.

Join the discussion and tell us what you think of some of the proposed restrictions put on GMO corn by the USDA. Will this change your plans for the upcoming planting season?

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