cows in field

Defend Farmer and Consumer Choice Regarding GE Alfalfa

By Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director

Added February 7, 2011. On January 27, 2011, the USDA de-regulated – (in other words, they approved) – Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa, in order for it to be widely planted this spring. This was done despite the fact that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identified many risks and unanswered questions.

The distributor of GE Alfalfa, Forage Genetics International, wasted no time:

February 3, 2011 - Roundup Ready Alfalfa Seed Sales To Begin
Alfalfa growers can begin contacting seed dealers about ordering Roundup Ready varieties, says Mark McCaslin, president of Forage Genetics International.

The end result: lost income for farmers, fewer choices for farmers and consumers, and no transparency about GE contamination of local and organic foods.

Why farmers and consumers should be concerned:

  • Alfalfa is a perennial crop and is pollinated by bees, which generally cover a five-mile range during pollination. The bees do not know the difference between GE and non GE and will ultimately cross pollinate the crops.
  • Alfalfa is the nation's 4th largest crop, planted on over 21 million acres.
  • Forage and hay are primary feed crops for dairy cows and beef cattle as well as pork, lamb, and sheep. Hay is trucked across the country. Some hay crops go to seed because of weather or farmer choice. Rogue wind seeding of hedgerows, wetlands and fallow land will happen and the alfalfa will not be harvested. The GE technology is not contained--it can now spread free and wild, without regard to property lines or fences
  • Hay is used as mulch and alfalfa meal as a beneficial soil amendment.
  • Alfalfa sprouts constitute an important sector of the salad market and alfalfa also plays a major role in honey production.
  • Currently over 90% of all alfalfa hay planted in the U.S. does not use any herbicides at all. Roundup-Ready (GE) Alfalfa will introduce the toxic herbicide Roundup (Glyphosate) to these fields.
  • Any farmer unknowingly "possessing" those GE genes in a plant on his/her field, can be (and many have been) sued by Monsanto for possessing their technology without a license;
  • Organic farmer's organic certification could be at risk and Monsanto has no obligation to compensate him/her for their loss.

It is time for the US government to support more than just the biotech approach to agriculture. Approving the unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa is clearly a case of the USDA giving preference to one form of agriculture over another and caving in to special interests over public good.

As everyone predicted, the de-regulation of GE Alfalfa was quickly followed by a ruling on GE sugar beets. On February 4, 2011, the USDA partially deregulated GE sugar beets, following a court decision that called for a complete ban.

The Federation of Organic Dairy Farmers (FOOD Farmers) representing over 1400 organic dairy farmers across the country asks you to call, email or fax the White House.

President Obama can stop the de-regulation and allow time for independent scientific evaluation of public health, environmental, and economic consequences of that release, ongoing government oversight and protection, and a plan for compensation of those harmed by accidental contamination:
Please call or email:
President Barack Obama
Comment line: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461?

DONATE TO THE CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY. Their legal work has been at the forefront of this fight, and is the reason that USDA had to admit the health and environmental impacts from GE crops.

By Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director

NODPA supports the National Organic Coalition's
position on de-regulation

Prior to any de-regulation of new genetically-engineered crops, A GE contamination plan is essential to protect all non-GM crops. At a minimum, the following 7 points must be addressed transparently and fairly (for all stakeholders involved):

  1. Establish a USDA Public Breeds Institute to ensure that the public has access to high quality non-GMO breeds and germplasm.
  2. Create a Contamination Compensation Fund, funded by GMO patent holders, to provide immediate assistance to persons contaminated by GMOs, from seed to table.
  3. Complete elimination of deregulated GM crop status, including prior deregulations, with on-going oversight and public evaluation of compliance and enforcement.
  4. Conduct comprehensive, independent, longitudinal studies on the health, environmental, and socio-economic impacts of GMOs, prior to GM crop approvals.
  5. Prohibit the growing of promiscuous GM crops that are likely to cause GMO contamination.
  6. Prevent food security risks associated with the concentration of our food system in the hands of a few companies.
  7. Institute an immediate labeling protocol for all GM crops, products, and ingredients.
GMO ALFALFA News, Facts & Resources

For background on the GE Alfalfa issue, see NODPA's own article >