3 - 2010

Speak Out Against Genetically Engineered Alfalfa – TODAY!

Back in January, I wrote about “personal change or political action?” Now is a good time for a little political action, and I’d like to encourage you to take a few minutes to help TODAY.

I received a bulletin from Organic Valley reporting that the USDA is taking public comments through today only (March 3, 2010, until 5 p.m. ET) regarding the agency’s apparent intention to deregulate genetically engineered alfalfa.

This is alfalfa that is engineered to be “Roundup Ready,” meaning it contains the herbicide Roundup.

Alfalfa is a common food crop and animal feed, so the decision will play into organic farming. Organic Valley has a detailed information sheet on its Web site, but Organic Valley reports the gist of the issue is this:

In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA failed to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) before deregulating the crop.  An EIS is a rigorous analysis of the potential significant impacts of a federal decision.  The federal courts sided with CFS and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an EIS. They released a draft EIS on December 14, 2009. Draft EISSupplemental documents

It appears USDA again intends to deregulate GE alfalfa without any limitations or protections for farmers, consumers or the environment. In the new EIS, the USDA has completely dismissed the fact that GE contamination will threaten export and domestic markets and organic meat and dairy products.  And, incredibly, USDA is claiming that there is no evidence that consumers care about GE contamination of organic. We know that’s not true.

Concerns about the pesticide

Roundup is a pretty scary herbicide. It contains ingredients that have been shown to persist in edible crops, that have ties to cancer, and that harm wildlife.

Some of the concerns with GE (genetically engineered) crops that contain Roundup include these (from Organic Valley’s site):

  • The great majority of GE crops grown today are Roundup Ready, and their widespread introduction has vastly increased Roundup use and fostered an epidemic of Roundup-resistant weeds.  To kill Roundup-resistant weeds requires higher doses of Roundup, often in combination with other toxic herbicides.  Over the past 13 years, Roundup Ready crops have significantly increased overall herbicide use on corn, soybeans and cotton – by 383 million pounds[vii] – and Roundup Ready alfalfa will only make matters worse.
  • As the agency’s own studies here show, the great majority of alfalfa is currently grown without the use of any herbicides at all.[viii] So Roundup Ready alfalfa will increase Roundup use and exacerbate the resistant weed epidemic without displacing other herbicides on most alfalfa farms.
  • Roundup has been associated with increased rates of several cancers in pesticide applicators (e.g. non-Hodgkin’s & multiple myeloma),[ix] and is highly toxic to frogs at field-relevant concentrations.[x] The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently re-assessing the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, for the first time in over 15 years.  USDA should wait for this new EPA assessment before it considers approving GE alfalfa.

This action is important, because it’s the first time the USDA has ruled on this issue. Please contact the USDA to let them know how you feel.

Submit comments via the Center for Food Safety Action Center tool. You can also submit your comments directly to the USDA.

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