The Real Deal: Explaining Monsanto's Refuge-in-the-Bag Concept

By T. Morgan 7/2/2010

For many farmers today, planting and complying with insect resistance management (IRM) – or refuge requirements – can be a time-consuming task.

Planting refuges is important to ensure insect populations do not become resistant to the B.t. gene. The EPA requires for most B.t. products that a separate “structured” refuge be planted in or near the field containing the B.t. crop. This requires purchasing and planting seeds from separate bags. On top of that, the requirements on how the refuge must be structured can be complex and time consuming for growers.

Monsanto hopes to simplify this process for growers with the refuge-in-the-bag (RIB) concept. This RIB concept involves mixing the refuge seed with the B.t. corn seed so a farmer has everything he or she needs in one bag.

“Refuge-in-the-Bag will be a new solution for growers,” Holly Butka, Monsanto corn traits product lead, said. “RIB puts the refuge that’s required for IRM into the same package or container as the fully traited seed. It really is just a very convenient way for growers to manage their planting – something that saves them a bunch of time and takes the compliance questions and issues off of the growers and moves them to the manufacturing plant.”

Monsanto has been studying the concept of RIB for more than 10 years.

“It’s important to point out this is an investment,” said Butka. “Not only has Monsanto spent a lot of time, energy and resources investigating RIB, but in moving to RIB, we’ll also be modifying our production plants and adding additional equipment to our plants. This is all about convenience for the growers and meeting demands they’ve asked us for.”

The EPA recently approved a product from DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred subsidiary – Optimum® AcreMax™ 1. According to Butka, it’s more complex product.

“It’s a refuge-in-the-bag for below-ground pests, but it requires a separate 20 percent structured refuge for above-ground pests that still has to be managed and purchased as a separate component,” she said. “A grower still has to make sure he or she is putting out the right amountof non-B.t. seed in the right place, at the right time in order to have an effective refuge.”

Monsanto has submitted RIB options for two B.t. corn products – Genuity® SmartStax™ and Genuity® VT Double PRO® corn – for EPA regulatory approval. Butka said the submission of these products to the EPA is the first of many steps to bring them to market.

Refuge in the Bag: Will That Be One Bag or Two?
Seed companies—including Monsanto—have been developing the concept of “refuge in the bag,” or RIB for short, for a number of years now. The goal is to make refuge compliance for insect-protected (B.t.) crops easier and simpler for farmers.  How does Monsanto’s RIB concept compare to Pioneer’s? Simply, it’s one bag versus two. Read more