USDA Poised to Approve Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

Ring the Frankenfood alarm. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the verge of approving Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE), Roundup Ready alfalfa for the spring planting season.


The USDA says it can mitigate the contamination of organics by limiting the planting of GE alfalfa to certain regions in certain states. This kind of policy is not only ineffective, it's unfair to organic farmers residing in regions where GE alfalfa will be planted.

By Sarah Parsons | FoodChange.org

According to Food & Water Watch, the USDA released its environmental impact assessment on GE alfalfa on December 16, 2010. This is one of the very last stages in the approval process for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Unless we raise a huge ruckus right now, you can bet that Big Ag will be sowing its GE alfalfa seeds this coming spring.

The real issue here is that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds threaten to destroy the livelihoods of organic farmers and disrupt the organic food industry. The USDA admitted as much, but due to industry pressure, the agency still seems hell-bent on giving GE alfalfa the green light.

The USDA acknowledges that, as with any GE crop, Roundup Ready alfalfa runs the risk of spreading outside of its containment area and cross-breeding with organic alfalfa varieties. Organic varieties must be au naturale in order to be considered organic, so this kind of mixing has the potential to completely destroy the livelihoods of organic alfalfa farmers. Plus, alfalfa is a huge feed crop for dairy and beef cattle. A hindrance to the organic alfalfa industry would also harm the organic dairy and beef industry.

Organic foods aren’t the only things threatened by GE alfalfa’s approval, either. As we’re seeing right now with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn, cotton, and soy plants, weeds tend to evolve a resistance to Roundup, an herbicide. These resistant weeds morph into voracious “superweeds,” choking out crops and pushing farmers to increase their reliance on toxic pesticides and herbicides. More chemicals are not only an extra expense for farmers, they contaminate soil, groundwater, and wildlife with toxins.

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