"Comments in front of EPA/USDA Workshop on Bt Crop Resistance
MN Dept. of Agriculture/Organic Advisory Task
June 18, 1999
Panel 4 - Compliance Issues
Thanks you for the opportunity to speak, and for including organic sector
representatives as panelists. I have been an organic inspector for 13 years,
and was the founding president of the Independent Organic Inspectors
Association. I have helped train hundreds of organic inspectors worldwide. I
serve on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture s Organic Advisory Task
Force and as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Codex Commission on Food
Labeling. Although I was invited by the MDA to represent organic
today s workshop, my comments do not represent position s of the MDA.
As an organic inspector, I have encountered numerous issues related to
achieving compliance in the farm sector. My inspection experience has shown
that compliance is most likely achieved when producers fully understand and
support the rational for the regulation, and when it is in their best
interest to remain in compliance. In the organic sector, premium prices,
environmental benefits and personal health objectives all contribute to a
high level of compliance.
Before attempting to answer the questions prepared for the panel on
Compliance Issues, I would like to step back and take a look at some larger
compliance issues. I would like to point out that genetically engineered
crops and products are strictly prohibited in organic production. All
certification agencies worldwide prohibit the use of genetic engineering in
organic production and processing.
After proposing to allow genetic engineering in the USDA s first proposed
organic rule, the USDA received 280,000 comments, with protests of the
proposed allowance of genetic engineering at the top of the list. Secretary
of Agriculture Dan Glickman has publicly stated that genetic engineering
not be allowed in organic production.
I would like to read a passage from the Codex Commission on Food Labelling s
Guidelines for the Production, Processing Labelling and Marketing of
Organically Produced Foods, which state, "All materials and/or the products
produced from genetically engineered/modified organisms (GEO/GMO) are not
compatible with the principles of organic production (either the growing,
manufacturing, or processing) and therefore are not accepted under these
As the EPA and USDA are considering compliance issues related to Bt and
genetically engineered crops, you must consider how the use of these crops
can impact the compliance of organic producers with organic certification
standards and regulations. Clearly, corn pollen can travel for several miles
on unpredictable winds. Bt corn has already contaminated organic corn,
leading to the destruction of 80,000 bags of American-made corn chips,
the presence of genetically engineered corn caused by "genetic drift" which
occurred in Texas. The issue of genetic drift and the ability of organic
producers to remain in compliance with organic standards raises many
The above questions are directly linked to compliance, and need to be
addressed by the EPA, USDA, the biotech industry and producers who plant
genetically engineered crops. I will now respond to the prepared questions:
- How can refuges be designed and located so that adequate buffers are in
place to insure that the property rights of organic producers are not
- If the property rights of organic producers are violated, how can GEO
producers and manufacturers be held responsible?
- Will crop insurance or property liability insurance cover the losses to
organic producers caused by genetic drift?
- If resistance is confirmed in an area, and the use of Bt is prohibited or
restricted, who will be responsible for losses suffered by organic
- As Bt resistant corn borers, Colorado potato beetles and other insects
move from Bt crop areas to organic fields, who is held responsible damages
caused by the Bt resistant insects?
- As pest insects develop resistance to Bt, who is responsible, and indeed
liable, for the loss of Bt as an effective management tool used by organic
farmers and gardeners for more than 50 years?
- On the other hand, who is held liable for the loss of non-target species,
including lepidoptera and coleoptera, which are valuable biological control
agents in organic production systems that rely on biological diversity for
the production of organic crops?
- What level (percentage) of grower compliance is needed or expected to
sustain an IRM program? At what point (percentage) does non-compliance
adversely impact IRM and increase the likelihood of resistance?
University of Minnesota research scientists David Andow and William
Hutchinson have recommended that, " Growers should plant no more than 50
percent of their corn acreage in Bt corn. This conservative refuge
requirement is necessary given the current knowledge gaps regarding European
corn borer and concerns that not all Bt corn events meet the high-dose
assumption throughout the growing season." (Now or Never, USC, 1998) Such
serious independent research indicates that producers should plant no more
than 50 percent of their corn acreage in Bt corn.
100% grower compliance is the ideal, but may not be realistically
95% grower compliance should be the absolute minimum, if resistance
management plans are to be seriously implemented.
- At what level should grower compliance be monitored (i.e. individual
growers or at a state/regional/county level)?
Grower compliance is most effectively monitored at the levels where it is
most easily regulated, and that is at the manufacture and distribution
levels. Manufacturers must not be allowed to sell more than half of their
stock as Bt product. Over half of their production must be non-GEO. They
not be allowed to sell more than half Bt product to any single distributor.
Distributors must gather total corn acreage information from all customers,
and they must not sell more than half of the total corn acreage in Bt
any single producer.
There should also be restrictions on advertising claims, similar to tobacco
advertisements. Advertising currently provides the most pervasive "grower
education" which is occurring. Biotech seed companies should be required to
mention resistance management and refuge requirements in all Bt crop
- Discuss strategies that may enhance grower compliance with implementation
of a refuge (e.g. grower contracts, sales incentives, crop insurance
programs, grower certification, grower workshops, educational materials).
Grower contracts, crop insurance programs and grower certification are
strategies to enhance grower compliance. The biotech industry clearly needs
to move in the direction of mandatory labeling of GEO crops and products.
Novartis has already publicly stated that mandatory labeling is inevitable,
and the industry needs to embrace the concept. With labeling, and the
"identity preserve" Bt corn, some sort of grower certification system
needed to insure compliance with labeling and product segregation
requirements. Grower education is an essential component of any effective
certification program. Education and oversight on refuge design and
implementation will need to be incorporated into a grower certification
program, (if the entire hypothetical concept of providing refuges is
determined to be an effective long term strategy to prevent insect
- Discuss strategies that might be deployed if a grower repeatedly fails to
comply with IRM guidelines (e.g. sales prohibition, fines, other
Clearly, sales prohibitions are effective strategies that can be implemented
by the marketplace without government intervention, but it is
the entire industry could be so organized as to deny a violator access to
purchase Bt seeds. Another market driven approach would be a boycott of the
offender s products. If the violator has no market, the incentives are
removed to continue production of the crops.
Clearly, the EPA must conduct rigorous oversight of registrants in order to
assess how they are handling grower compliance issues. Do they devote
resources to IRM compliance comparable to the resources they devote to
investigation and litigation of patent protection requirements of the grower
- Should there be any action taken if compliance on a county level fails to
meet an acceptable level (e.g. county sales caps, county sales prohibition,
increased refuge acreage)?
See # 2 and # 4 above. The issue of "acceptable level" comes back to the
fundamental question of resistance prevention vs. delay. If the goal is
resistance prevention, then the only "acceptable level" is zero. The
of the question implies that resistance is inevitable, and the unproven,
hypothetical refuge strategy is designed only to delay the development of Bt
- Discuss annual surveys to measure grower compliance:
a) Who should sponsor the surveys (e.g. industry, NCGA, USDA/NASS)?
The industry which benefits from the sale of Bt crops should bear all
survey and compliance costs.
b) Who should develop the questions?
A broad based panel of producers, scientists and environmentalists, all of
whom are free of conflicts of interest with the biotech industry, should
develop the questions.
c) Who should manage the surveys?
Surveys should be managed by public or private research institutions which
have no connection to the biotech industry.
James A. Riddle, Organic Inspector
MN Dept. of Agriculture/Organic Advisory Task Force
Rt. 3 Box 162C
Winona, MN 55987
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **