|Image courtesy of JoeMohrToons|
On January 27, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the complete deregulation of Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready Alfalfa. Although more than 200,000 public comments were received by the USDA and the White House opposing deregulation of GE alfalfa, Vilsack and the White House wilted in the face of the raw political power of the biotech industry.
The Cornucopia Institute is going into federal court to block the action. Lawyers from the Center for Food Safety are spearheading the lawsuit, which was filed on March 18. Other plaintiffs that are part of the lawsuit include independent alfalfa seed farmers, the California Farmers Union, and organizations such as Beyond Pesticides and the Sierra Club.
Nearly 20 million acres of land across the U.S. are in alfalfa production, making it the fourth most widely grown crop. It is a fundamental protein source for foraging livestock. Alfalfa is also a perennial, meaning that the GE alfalfa’s seeds are subject to transport by animals, water, farm equipment, hay bales or other mechanisms and will spring to life in their new environments. Designed to be resistant to Roundup herbicide, GE alfalfa will be much more difficult to eradicate. And with a pollination radius of approximately five miles, bees and other insects will likely carry Monsanto’s patented DNA past fence rows and onto neighboring fields, contaminating crops raised for forage and seed.
Jim Munsch, a Cornucopia member and organic beef producer from Coon Valley, Wisconsin, says: “We rely on alfalfa in pasture mix and for winter feed. GE alfalfa means contamination of all alfalfa seeds within a few years. When that happens we will no longer be able to get North American produced alfalfa seed. Our options include giving up organic production at great revenue loss or finding another forage at great cost increase.”