Thursday, February 17, 2011

GE alfalfa isn’t necessary

Genetically engineered alfalfa isn’t necessary
By Barbara Damrosch
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, February 16, 2011; 1:32 PM

Alfalfa’s roots go deep in the soil and deep in history. Prized by the ancient Persians, this high-protein “Queen of Forages” is still treasured. It is the fourth-largest crop grown in the United States, primarily for feeding cattle. And it is the latest one to fall to the Empire of Monsanto.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s recent decision to deregulate the use of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA) has alarmed many in the farming community, and beyond, who expected better from this administration. I suppose the kindest thing you could say about this genetically engineered seed - developed to allow the plant to withstand applications of Roundup herbicide - is that it’s unnecessary.

Alfalfa competes well with weeds in a well-managed system. But when RRA is grown, weeds will develop resistance to Roundup, as they have with the other crops that carry the Roundup Ready gene, such as corn, soybeans and cottons (sugar beets are next). This resistance could lead to the introduction of yet more powerful transgenic remedies that, in turn, would fail.

Polling has shown that most Americans dislike the idea of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) being introduced into the food supply, which is why the agricultural lobby blocks the labeling of products containing them. And no one fears the galloping GMO trend more than farmers - organic or otherwise - who bank on selling GMO-free alfalfa hay, or meat from animals not tainted by eating RRA.

[Read More…]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

No RR alfalfa in valley

No RR Alfalfa In California’s Imperial Valley
By Neil Tietz
Hay & Forage Grower
February 9, 2011

Roundup Ready alfalfa won’t be commercialized for hay or seed production in Southern California’s Imperial Valley, points out Mark McCaslin, president of Forage Genetics International.

McCaslin says his company helped implement the restriction, called the Imperial Valley Use Agreement, which has been in place since 2005. Early that year, University of California Extension and the California Crop Improvement Association held a series of grower meetings to discuss stewardship issues related to the genetically engineered (GE) crop.

“The high density of alfalfa planting in the valley, the general practice of harvesting both hay and seed from the same fields in different years, or even within a year, and the high proportion of alfalfa seed sold in export markets were all discussed,” he says. “The consensus was that Forage Genetics International and Monsanto should not commercialize Roundup Ready alfalfa in the area.

“Imperial Valley growers have been pleased with the program, and it is our intent to continue with this until/unless we hear differently from a consensus of Imperial Valley stakeholders,” McCaslin adds.

Growers in the valley can choose to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa for forage production, but are obligated to meet the isolation requirements of the Imperial Valley Use Agreement. The agreement mandates at least a one-mile separation between the biotech crop and any other alfalfa, says McCaslin.

There currently are no plans to implement similar restrictions in other areas, he says.

Most Imperial Valley growers favor the restriction, agrees Dan Putnam, University of California Extension forage specialist. He says the valley is the largest alfalfa seed production area in the U.S. in terms of volume, and since the seed is of non-dormant varieties, most is exported. A significant amount of hay grown there is also exported, and much of the seed and hay go to GE-sensitive markets.

“So you combine those two export industries with the heat of the summer, which causes earlier flowering, and our feeling is that the risk of gene flow there is much greater than in other areas,” says Putnam. “So in my view it’s a good idea to keep the trait out of the Imperial Valley.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Alfalfa contamination certain

Contamination from GM alfalfa certain
By Michael J. Crumb
Associated Press
February 07, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa—Contamination of organic and traditional crops by recently deregulated, genetically modified alfalfa is inevitable, agriculture experts said, despite Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s recent assurances the federal government would take steps to prevent such a problem.

Many farmers had been pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the use of genetically modified alfalfa. Monsanto developed the seed to resist the weedkiller Roundup, allowing farmers to use the two together to save time and labor on weeding. Supporters also say the use of the genetically modified seeds lets farmers grow more alfalfa on each acre and helps keep food prices low.

Opponents, many of them organic farmers, say widespread planting of genetically modified alfalfa will result in pollen from those plants contaminating organic and traditional crops, destroying their value. While alfalfa is mostly used as hay for cattle, some consumers don’t want to eat foods, such as milk or beef, from animals that have consumed genetically modified plants.

[Read More…]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Alfalfa battles remain

Battles remain for biotech alfalfa
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
February 04, 2011

Opponents gear up for court fight after USDA approves crop

Biotech opponents are spoiling for another court battle over genetically engineered alfalfa now that the USDA has lifted all restrictions on the controversial crop.

The Center for Food Safety, which helped convince a federal judge to halt most production of the crop in 2007, has vowed to challenge the legality of full deregulation.

Andrew Kimbrell, the group’s executive director, cautioned farmers against buying genetically engineered alfalfa seeds.

“Within a short period of time, they may be illegal to plant,” he said.

In 2007, a judge required the USDA to conduct an environmental impact statement, or EIS, analyzing the crop’s effects before it could be re-commercialized.

Kimbrell claims the agency has fallen short of its legal obligations.

“His order was to take a hard look at gene flow, the economic impact on farmers and the creation of superweeds,” he said. “They have failed to do their homework.”

[Read More…]

Friday, January 28, 2011

USDA Decision on Alfalfa

USDA Decision on GE Alfalfa Leaves Door Open for Contamination, Rise of Superweeds
Center for Food Safety
Press Release
January 27, 2011

Rogue agency chooses “business as usual” over sound science
Center announces immediate legal challenge to USDA’S flawed assessment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Center for Food Safety criticized the announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers USDA acknowledged in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). On a call today with stakeholders, Secretary Vilsack reiterated the concerns surrounding purity and access to non-GE seed, yet the Agency’s decision still places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters.

“We’re disappointed with USDA’s decision and we will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”

[Read More…]

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