More environmental challenges ahead

"We have to be alert for these barriers," says Gerret Van Duyn, manager of the environmental and biotechnology policy section of the National Cotton Council. He spoke at a joint meeting of the American Cotton Producers and The Cotton Foundation at Corpus Christi.

Biotechnology heads the list of trade challenges, he said. "We have a coalition of industry partners working on reducing such non-tariff trade barriers as Europe's moratorium on biotechnology. Cotton may not be on the front line of this fight but we're working closely with food groups to learn from their experience."

Biotech restrictions could affect sale of cottonseed in food products. "Labeling requirements could restrict use," he said. "We have to be alert to that possibility."

Loss in trade could reach $300 million a year because of the moratorium, Van Duyn said. "We also could lose new markets because of scare mongering."

Van Duyn said the restrictions, labeling requirements and moratorium come from anti-biotechnology interests.

"Bio-technology is a valuable asset," he said.

Traceability, bio-safety and protocol are other issues the NCC and other industry interests will watch among other environmental issues.

On the positive side, spray drift regulations may be altered to limit liability to farmers.

Van Duyn said another issue could pose severe hardships on farmers and pesticide applications. "The spray nozzle would be considered a point source pollution site," he said, "equal to a pipe pumping pollutants directly into a stream. We are concerned."

Buffer zones might be required around areas with endangered species.

Van Duyn said industry is concerned with the rising cost of registering new products but added that a streamlined system may get products on the farm faster.

Several new biotech products could be available for cotton producers soon. He said Dow, Syngenta and Bayer all have new products in the pipeline.

"New Bt cotton will feature a different protein and a different mode of action," he said. "And a double-toxin Bt is coming, as well as new herbicide resistance."

Van Duyn said industry would soon release new products to control plant bugs, pink bollworms and other insect pests, along with new herbicides.

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