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2-Plants: Use of Genetically-Modified Crops in Wisconsin

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  High-tech Corn Slow To Catch On
        But Researchers Predict The Use Of Genetically Modified Corn Could
SOURCE: Wisconsin State Journal, USA, by Lisa Schuetz
DATE:   Feb 15, 2003

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High-tech Corn Slow To Catch On
But Researchers Predict The Use Of Genetically Modified Corn Could Rise.

Wisconsin farmers are eagerly planting genetically modified soybeans, but
genetically modified corn has been much slower to catch on, according to
a report by UW-Madison researchers.

But a survey of farmers shows that they are becoming more comfortable
with high-tech crops, researcher Bradford Barham said.

In fact, the researchers are predicting that the use of genetically
modified corn will hold firm or increase as farmer satisfaction with Bt-
corn increases. Bt-corn contains bacillus thuringiensis, which kills
insects including the European corn borer.

The report -- written by rural sociologist Frederick Buttel and
economists Barham and Jeremy Foltz -- is part of "Status of Wisconsin
Agriculture, 2003," recently released by UW-Madison's College of
Agriculture and Life Sciences and UW-Extension.

The survey indicates that Wisconsin's use of genetically modified crops
is on par with the nation's.

Nearly three-quarters of the 1,000 or so farmers who responded to the
2002 survey said they planted herbicide-resistant soybeans in 2001.
Herbicide resistant soybeans aren't harmed when certain herbicides are
sprayed on the fields.

Meanwhile, just 20 percent of surveyed farmers said that they planted
herbicide-resistant corn and 24 percent said they planted Bt-corn in 2001.

The survey results are consistent with a June 2002 report by the
Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service.

According to that report, 78 percent of the state's soybean acres were
planted in 2002 with herbicide-resistant seed, up from 63 percent in
2001. About 26 percent of the corn crop was planted with biotech seed, up
from 18 percent in 2001.

The UW study found that the lower use of Bt-corn here in comparison to
other states is largely that it is less likely to boost yields here
because the European corn borer is less of problem in Wisconsin.

"In Wisconsin, for a variety of reasons . . . we have had a lot less
problems with the European corn borer than other states, say Nebraska,"
Barham said.

But the survey also indicates that its performance record is improving,
which could signal a steady increase in its use, he said.

Three-quarters of the farmers responding to the survey reported lower
pest damage and higher yields with the Bt-corn. About two-thirds of the
farmers reported higher expenses, but about 60 percent reported higher

In a survey about the 2000 crop, 44 percent of farmers reported higher
profits and only 60 percent reported higher yields.

In addition, slightly more farmers indicated they were going to continue
using Bt-corn seed in the future.

"The technology is relatively young," Barham said. "It looks to us like
the pattern of use is stabilizing as farmers get comfortable with the

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

        Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Wisconsin, USA
        by Bradford L. Barham, Frederick H. Buttel, and Jeremy Foltz
SOURCE: University of Winconsin, USA
DATE:   Jan 2003

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Current Wisconsin Farm Financial Conditions
Situation and Outlook for Farm Products and Inputs

Special Articles
- The Status of Health Insurance Coverage for Wisconsin Dairy Farmers
- Use of Genetically-Modified Crops in Wisconsin
- Woodlands of Opportunities and Challenges


Use of Genetically Modified Crops in Wisconsin

Bradford L. Barham, Frederick H. Buttel, and Jeremy Foltz
Program on Agricultural Technology Studies 
American farmers have embraced genetically modified organism (GMO) crops
(or GMOs) with considerable enthusiasm since their commercial debut in
the late 1990s. USDA estimates that in the spring 2002 planting season,
nearly 75 percent of U.S. soybeans planted were herbicide-resistant (HR),
and about 25 percent of U.S. corn was planted with Bt (insect-resistant)

Adoption in Wisconsin has been very similar. In a 2002 survey by the
Program on Agricultural Technology Studies on 2001 crop choices, 76
percent of Wisconsin farmers reported using HR soybeans, 24 percent
reported use of Bt-corn, and almost 20 percent reported use of HR corn.

Previous UW-Madison research compared the very rapid adoption of HR
soybeans by Wisconsin grain farmers with the more moderate adoption of
Bt-corn and HR corn. One major finding was that the adoption of Bt-corn
hit a plateau in 1998, the third year it was available in the market.
Since then, Bt-corn adoption has hovered around the 20 percent mark in
Wisconsin. Another major finding was that farmers were much more likely
to stick with HR soybeans than they were with Bt-corn, and that it was in
part the relatively high rate of turnover in the use of Bt-corn that
accounted for the plateau in adoption.

Underlying the high rate of turnover was a lower performance record for
Bt-corn than HR soybeans. In particular, HR soybean adopters were more
likely to report lower expenses and higher profits than were Bt-corn
adopters, even though significant yield improvements were more common on
Bt-corn than on HR soybeans. These differences between farmer adoption
patterns and experiences with regard to Bt-corn and HR soybeans
underscore a broader lesson that is emerging from the first round of
agricultural biotechnologies: Products of biotechnology are very diverse
in terms of their performance and importance.

The rest of this article looks briefly at the performance of Bt-corn as
reported by Wisconsin farmers in 2002 and at their compliance with insect
resistant management (IRM) practices that are part of the technology
package that they agree to when they purchase the seeds. This spring we
will elaborate on these findings in a report by UW-Madison and University
of Minnesota researchers that provides a comparative study of GMO
adoption and performance.

Performance of Bt-corn

In 2002, we surveyed farmers who used Bt-corn in 2001, asking them to
compare its performance with traditional varieties. Three-quarters of
respondents reported lower or much lower pest damage and accordingly
higher or much higher yields. About two-thirds of respondents reported
higher or much higher expenses and about 60 percent reported higher or
much higher profits. All of these indicators showed notable improvements
over the same indicators reported by respondents to a 2001 survey
regarding the 2000 crop year. For example, in the earlier survey, only 44
percent of farmers reported higher or much higher profits, and only 60
percent reported higher or much higher yields. These improvements in the
performance indicators, along with a decline in the frequency of
"disadoption" of GMO plantings, suggest that Bt-corn adoption rates are
likely to hold firm or increase as Wisconsin farmers gain experience with
the technology and learn when and where it's worth using.

An important performance indicator with respect to environmental outcomes
is the reduction of insecticide use. In 2002, 31 percent of farmers
reported much lower use of insecticides with the adoption of Bt-corn, and
13 percent reported lower use of insecticides. Only 2 percent reported
higher use of insecticides. This finding is consistent with numerous on-
farm studies that show a reduction in insecticide use for pests targeted
by Bt but no decline in the use of insecticides for pests not affected by
the toxin.

When asked the most important reason for using Bt corn, farmers reported
increased corn yields first (47 percent), better insect control (22
percent), recommendation by dealer or consultant (11 percent), reduction
of insecticide use (5 percent), and reduction of production costs (5
percent). These results match well with the performance outcomes, and
underscore the prevailing view that Bt-corn is a yield-enhancing
technology, especially in areas with a higher potential for European
corn-borer infestations. For a variety of agronomic and environmental
reasons, the European corn-borer has been less of a problem in Wisconsin
than in western grain states. This probably explains why adoption rates
have held steady at around 20 percent compared to higher rates in the west.

      Bt-Corn Performance Compared To Traditional Varieties

       Percent of respondents indicating that Bt corn was:
            Much Lower  Lower   No Different    Higher  Much Higher
Yield        0.5         1.5    22.8            55.8    19.3
Expenses     2.1         6.7    24.7            58.2     8.2
Pest Damage 39.4        36.9    19.2             2.5     2.0
Profit       0.5         7.1    31.6            46.9    13.8
Insecticide 31.4        12.6    54.5             1.6     0.0
Labor        8.2        12.4    78.4             0.5     0.5

Compliance with Insect Resistance Management (IRM) Practices

There is a danger that insects may develop resistance to the Bt bacterium
in Bt corn seed. This is the motivating concern behind the IRM practices
that farmers are supposed to follow when adopting Bt-corn.

The degree to which this resistance evolves in the European corn- borer
will influence the efficacy of Bt-insecticides used by non-GMO producers
as well as the useful life of the current Bt-corn seed technologies.
Therefore, as part of the contract signed for the purchase of seeds from
vendors, farmers agree to comply with IRM requirements established by an
intergovernmental agency group that regularly evaluates the efficacy and
appropriateness of the rules. Those requirements include:
- Plant at least 20 percent of their corn area to non-Bt corn in order to
provide insects a refuge;
- Plant refuge areas within a Bt field as a border, block, or strip;
- Plant refuge areas separate from a Bt-field no further than one mile
from the Bt-field;
- Do not treat refuge areas with microbial Bt insecticides; and,
- Use non-microbial Bt insecticides only at an economic threshold or upon
expert recommendation.

Farmers were asked in the 2002 survey about their compliance with each of
these practices (although the question didn't refer to the practices as

          Compliance with Individual IRM Requirements
                                             Percent of Respondents
                                                in Compliance
At least 20 percent non-Bt corn for refuge              90.7 
When refuge acres within Bt field, refuge
planted as border, block, or strip                      80.6
When refuge acres separate from Bt field,
refuge within _ mile                                    83.0
No microbial Bt insecticides on refuge
acres                                                   90.5
Non-microbial Bt insecticides used only
at economic threshold or at expert
recommendation*                                         30.4
*Only 23 respondents reported using non-microbial Bt insecticides.

About 90 percent of farmers said they complied with the requirements to
establish a 20 percent non-Bt refuge and not using microbial Bt
insecticide on the refuge areas. About 80 percent of the respondents said
they met the recommendations for the form or location of the refuge area.
Only the last of the requirements -- using non-microbial insecticides only
at threshold levels -- had low compliance, but only a small fraction of
Bt-corn adopters actually reported using non-microbial insecticides on
non-Bt corn acres.

Another way of looking at farmer compliance with IRM requirements is to
identify the proportion of respondents with no violations, one violation
or two or more violations. About 69 percent had no violations (were in
full compliance with the IRM requirements), and 27 percent had only one
violation. Only 4 percent were in violation of more than one IRM
requirement. Overall, the compliance record of Bt-adopters in Wisconsin
is high. That's especially true given that (1) relatively few Wisconsin
farmers adopted Bt-corn and (2) for those who had only one violation, the
violation had to do with where the refuge was located rather than not
using a refuge in the first place.

When farmers were asked about their awareness of the IRM requirements, 18
percent reported that they did not know them, while 82 percent reported
being aware of them. Interestingly, actual compliance with IRM
requirements does not appear to be explained by this knowledge, as
farmers in either category were equally likely to have no or one
violation. Thus, other factors besides awareness of the requirements are
likely to predict who is and is not in compliance with IRM requirements.
These factors will be explored more fully in subsequent research, but
certainly include on-farm constraints and possible coordination with
neighbors planting choices.

Compliance with All IRM Requirements
Number of Violations    Number of       Percent of 
                        Respondents     Respondents
None                        144              68.9
One                          57              27.3
Two or more                   8               3.8
Totals                      209             100.0


Patterns of agricultural biotechnology use in Wisconsin are very similar
to those in the rest of the nation. In the case of GMOs, adoption of HR
soybeans has become almost universal in about half a decade, while
adoption rates of Bt-corn and HR corn have been much more moderate.
Wisconsin farmers adopting these technologies have been generally
satisfied with their performance. In the case of Bt-corn, that
satisfaction is growing, perhaps as farmers learn more about when and
where it is most appropriate to use.

Compliance among Wisconsin Bt-corn adopters with required insect
resistance management practices is high but not universal. Whether non-
compliance by a minority of producers is a problem worthy of social
concern is an empirical question. The answer depends in part on the
decisions made by neighboring farmers in their crop choices and their
compliance in the case of GMO use. However, the fact that Wisconsin has a
relatively low adoption rate of Bt-corn means that non-compliance is less
likely to be a problem than it might be in other parts of the country
because of the high potential for insect refuges on farms where non-GMO
crops are being cultivated. Further research on this issue in areas where
continuous corn cultivation dominates the landscape (e.g. southern
Wisconsin) could help to identify whether further attention should be
paid to issues of compliance.

About the authors: Bradford Barham (608/265-3090) and Jeremy Foltz (608/
262-6871) are Extension specialists and professor and assistant
professor, respectively, in the Department of Agricultural and Applied
Economics. Frederick Buttel (608/262-7156) is a professor of Rural Sociology.