ST. LOUIS -- The National Corn Growers Association says it is pleased the U.S. EPA will allow farmers the ability to improve upon the environmental benefits from biotechnology corn.

The EPA has announced a reduced refuge requirement for SmartStax, an insect-protection and weed control platform in corn, to 5 percent in the northern Corn Belt and 20 percent in Southern states where cotton is planted. In 1999, the EPA enacted refuge requirements to help prevent corn insect pests, such as the European corn borer, from developing resistance to Bt technology.

Agriculture biotechnology has substantial environmental benefits, because biotech crops require fewer pesticide applications. Biotechnology has allowed for the displacement of 630 million pounds of active ingredients that would have otherwise been used in herbicides and insecticides between 1996 and 2006.

"We believe biotechnology must have regulatory oversight based on sound science," said Rob Korff, NCGA Biotech Working Group chairman. "We have confidence in EPA's ability to make sound, science-based decisions as the final arbiter on this matter."

NCGA remains strongly committed to continuing grower education regarding compliance with refuge requirements, Korff added. NCGA launched the industry's first Insect Resistance Management online education center for growers, the Insect Resistance Management Learning Center. The learning tool was developed in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Committee and provides a comprehensive overview on the principles of Insect Resistance Management.

Founded in 1957, the National Corn Growers Association represents approximately 35,000 dues-paying corn growers and the interests of more than 300,000 farmers who contribute through corn checkoff programs in their states. NCGA and its 48 affiliated state associations and checkoff organizations work together to help protect and advance corn growers' interests.