USDA Approves Unregulated Planting of Transgenic Alfalfa
WASHINGTON, DC, January 28, 2011 (ENS) – Over the objections of organic farmers and organic food consumers, and despite a legal challenge, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to allow commercial planting of alfalfa genetically engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide without any federal requirements to prevent contamination of the rest of alfalfa seed and plantings.
The genetically engineered technology is licensed by Monsanto to the seed maker Forage Genetics International, which is owned by Land-O-Lakes.
Announcing the decision Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement and several public comment opportunities, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa.”
The expected impact of the decision is far reaching, particularly to organic farmers. Christine Bushway, executive director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association, said the decision threatens the $26.6 billion a year organic food industry that employs tens of thousands of people around the country, and helps keep at least 14,540 family farms in business. Except for 2009, the organic industry has experienced double digit growth annually for over a decade.
“This creates a perplexing situation when the market calls for a supply of crops free of genetic engineering,” Bushway said. “The organic standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, and consumers will not tolerate the accidental presence of genetic engineered materials in organic products yet GE crops continue to proliferate unchecked.”