Obama Can Stop GE Alfalfa if He Cares To

Musicians for Freedom Logo by Law Johnston of Denver

Editor’s Note: Just days ago, the USDA announced that it had once again approved Monsanto’s GE alfalfa for commercial sale and planting, despite a prior government ban and public outcry. Here’s how you can TAKE ACTION AGAINST GE ALFALFA

Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance The GE alfalfa at issue has been engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s flagship herbicide, Roundup.   Alfalfa is the nation’s 4th largest crop, planted on over 21 million acres.  Alfalfa hay is used for livestock feed, and alfalfa meal is used as a soil amendment.  Alfalfa sprouts constitute an important sector of the salad market, and the crop plays a major role in honey production nationally.

Harm Done by Genetically-Modifed Crops Cannot Be Undone!
Harm Done by Genetically-Modifed Crops Cannot Be Undone!

GE alfalfa is the first perennial crop to be genetically engineered, making it even more likely to be widely dispersed through escapee plants as well as bee pollination. Contamination threatens both organic farmers (since the organic standards prohibit GE crops) and conventional farmers (since most overseas governments and alfalfa importers reject GE-contaminated crops).

While conceding for the first time that GE contamination of non-GE crops is a major problem in the US, the USDA still moved ahead with approving commercial plantings of GE alfalfa.  The agency continues to overlook the widespread corruption of conventional seed varieties by GE strains (such as occurred with StarLink corn and LibertyLink rice), and the resulting severe economic injury to farmers.

The agency’s decision to deregulate GE alfalfa also places human health at risk from the inevitable increase in the use of both Roundup and even more toxic cocktails of herbicides, whose use has increased due to the proliferation of Roundup-resistant weeds.

The harm cannot be undone!  Once released into the environment, GE crops and pollen cannot be recalled.  This presents a serious problem for organic and conventional farmers whose livelihood and reputation depends upon the ability to grow non-GE crops. It also raises important concerns for consumers who want to eat foods grown without using GE technology.

3 Major Organic Brands Surrender To Monsanto’s GE Alfalfa

Care 2 Now, it seems that rather than fight for the purity of the organic ingredients they claim to cherish, Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farms, and Organic Valley have all bought into the USDA’s false claim that GE and non-GE alfalfa can coexist without contamination.

Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack (Counter Punch).

Alfalfa is a key component in feed for organically-raised animals. The USDA has failed to show how it will prevent GE alfalfa from contaminating organic and non-GE alfalfa crops. Without this guarantee, the integrity of thousands of organic products will be jeopardized.

According to Don Huber PhD., emeritus professor at Purdue University, the commercialization of genetically engineered alfalfa could result in the contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa within five years.  Such contamination threatens organic markets and diminishes non-contaminated, non-GE seed options for organic producers.

On its blog, “The Whole Story,” Whole Foods informs its readers that the government has two options:

1) fully deregulate GE alfalfa OR

2) conditionally deregulate it by placing certain rules and restrictions on growing GE alfalfa that would minimize or limit contamination of non-GE crops

The blog then states, “This second ‘coexistence’ option is what we are rallying for even though we continue to have reservations about GE crops.”

Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farms made a similar concession on his company blog, stating: “our best chance at preserving the future of organic agriculture is to fight for every protection available under the “coexistence” approach.”

George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, followed suit on his company’s press page, saying, “We will keep engaging and challenging the USDA in a true and meaningful conversation about coexistence and protection of non-GMO farming.”

What?! That’s it? The nation’s biggest purveyors of supposedly all-organic food are conceding the fight against GE alfalfa just like that?

Instead of using their buying power to protect organic growers, these CEOs seem to have forgotten the third and ONLY option for protecting organic companies and consumers–UPHOLDING THE BAN ON MONSANTO’S GE ALFALFA IN ANY SCENARIO!

In just five short years the organic labels that these companies claim to value so highly could be rendered essentially meaningless.

It’s not too late for the USDA to deny the approval of GE alfalfa, even if it is the underdog choice. Express your support for this option by signing Food & Water Watch’s petition to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and President Obama.