CASFS Blog & Forum



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: GE Alfalfa Set For Approval

The House Agriculture Committee jumped into the "coexistence" debate Friday over whether the Agriculture Department should place restrictions on genetically engineered crops. According to Agri-Pulse, the immediate issue is Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa because USDA is expected to announce on Monday, Jan. 24 whether it will allow unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa or impose restrictions which could include geographic limits, harvest timing, seed labeling and/or equipment handling rules.

The House Agriculture Committee under its new Chair Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) scheduled a "Public Forum" for Thursday, Jan. 20 "To review the biotechnology product regulatory approval process."

This is a public forum rather than a congressional hearing because the committee is not yet fully organized with all members named. Despite not being able to hold a formal hearing, Lucas apparently wanted to air committee views on coexistence before USDA announces its decision.

Many other views have already been aired. Six major farm organizations sent a Jan. 5 letter to White House science advisor Dr. John Holdren warning against allowing USDA "to use motives beyond science to impose conditions" on GE alfalfa.

Critics of GE alfalfa however, including the Organic Trade Association, point out that it would be foolish to ignore the impact of GE alfalfa's introduction on the other components of our food system.

Alfalfa is the nation's 4th largest crop, planted on over 21 million acres. The bees which pollinate alfalfa travel up to five miles and therefore could spread GE alfalfa to conventional and organic alfalfa fields. GE contamination of organic and conventionally grown crops presents a huge problem since afalfa is a primary feed for organic dairy and livestock production.

Organic dairies need organic alfalfa as feed for their cows, and organic standards don't allow the use of GE crops. Contamination of organic crops from GE crops can destroy markets for organic farmers. Conventional farmers need to retain the right to save their own seed. Monsanto has stolen this right with their patents on GE seeds from Percy Schmeiser and countless other farmers even when the farmers did not plant the GE seeds intentionally.

Forage and hay are primary feed crops for dairy cows and beef cattle as well as pork, lamb, and sheep, but it's not just livestock farmers who stand to lose. Some vegetable farmers use alfalfa hay 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.

The USDA tried to approve GE alfalfa before and the decision was challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court, which made the agency re-assess the environmental impact GE alfalfa could have on the environment. Now USDA has rushed through this process because big agribusiness wants to be allowed to plant GE alfalfa this spring.

We need President Obama to direct the USDA to stop the approval of GE alfalfa. Help us send a loud and clear message that consumers want foods that are free from genetic engineering.

Please follow
this link to send a letter to the President and Secretary Vilsack today!

Need more convincing? Below is a letter from farmer Chuck Noble of South Dakota on this issue:

Conventional and GE alfalfa coexistence is not possible or practical. Some reasons:

1. The USDA should realize that not all crops can coexist nor should all crops be genetically engineered.
2. A monopoly (Monsanto) is growing in the seed industry which is threatening to destroy independent seed producers.
3. Technologically, perennial crops – alfalfa and grasses – should not be genetically engineered because they cannot be kept in the fence. Human-inserted genes must be controlled.
4. 230,000 negative comments were received on the 2009 Draft EIS.
5. Approximately 100,000 acres of GE alfalfa were planted in two years out of over 20 million acres of conventional alfalfa. Most of the GE acres have been taken out.
6. GE alfalfa takes 20% more seed to establish the same stand as conventional alfalfa.
7. The GE gene does not add nutrition and the herbicide on the plants does not have nutrition.
8. Many of us use Roundup to kill alfalfa stands in crop rotations. GE alfalfa will be a weed not easily killed in other crops being grown.
9. GE alfalfa seed is becoming costly to keep out of conventional seed lots. Accurate tests and hygiene, clean combines, cleaners, and isolated fields are all issues. Since the Magna Carta, 1215 AD, we have the right to grow our crops without being trespassed by man-caused genes.
10. To allow GE alfalfa to be grown for a small number of people who want to plant into their weed patches is poor reasoning. The majority of growers timely suppress weeds and use crop rotation management wisely.
11. Coexistence of GE alfalfa is not possible without wrecking the conventional alfalfa and seed industry and causing further monopoly.
12. Up to half of USA seed production comes from alfalfa second growth such as I grow.
13. GE alfalfa will add costs to all producers and consumers. The benefit goes to the monopoly patent holder as we get further and further contaminated.
14. Genetically engineered effects are very difficult to back out of a perennial crop such as alfalfa and must not be allowed.

I have worked hard on this issue for five years. I was at the USDA-APHIS meeting in Colorado in October 2007, representing the 100,000’s of growers against the contaminating trends of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa. I was raised on a western South Dakota farm, have a science education and raise alfalfa hay and grass for dairy buyers and other buyers. I sell alfalfa seed from second-growth alfalfa and our operation also supports honey bee production, which too is adversely affected by GE alfalfa.

Chuck Noble, Bellevue, WA

Please Act Now:

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 8:07 PM


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