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USDA stance on GM alfalfa threatens “fabric of organic industry”
A draft environmental impact study (EIS) on genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa released by the US Department of Agriculture ignores the threat of GMO contamination on organic and non-GMO farming and says organic consumers don’t care about GMO contamination.
Dismisses significance of GMO contamination
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released its draft EIS on December 14, 2009, and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) says the document dismisses the significance of widespread contamination of organic and non-GMO alfalfa. A CFS statement says, “It is evident that the USDA has not taken the concerns of non-GMO alfalfa farmers or organic dairy farmers into consideration whatsoever.”
CFS analysis of key findings of the EIS is listed below:
The EIS dismisses the significant adverse economic effects that GMO contamination will have on organic and non-GMO conventional alfalfa seed or hay growers, and organic and conventional dairy producers that rely upon organic and non-GMO alfalfa hay for forage.
The EIS’s economic analysis admits that Roundup Ready GM alfalfa will hurt the organic industry and small farmers but it fails to analyze or suggest any possible protections for organic.The EIS says there is no evidence that organic consumers care about GE contamination.
The last point is especially ludicrous, says George Kimbrell, CFS staff attorney. “When the initial National Organic Program rule was published, the USDA received 275,000 public comments from people demanding that genetic engineering be excluded from organic food. This is evidence that people do care about GE contamination.”
“Business as usual”
In 2006, CFS sued the USDA for its illegal approval of Monsanto Company’s GM Roundup Ready alfalfa because the agency failed to conduct the National Environmental Policy Act-mandated EIS before deregulating the crop. In February 2007, the US District Court for the Northern District of California sided with CFS and banned GM alfalfa. The court ordered USDA to go back and do what it should have done in the first place—evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of GM alfalfa on the environment, farmers, and the public.
APHIS’s draft EIS gives a green light to allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of GM alfalfa. The draft EIS states that GM alfalfa, which is resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is “unlikely to pose plant pest risks and will not result in significant impacts to the human environment.” However, CFS says, “USDA plans to move ahead despite increasing evidence that GM alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.”
“USDA’s announcement is simply business as usual, once again catering to Monsanto’s corporate interests at the expense of farmers and consumers,” stated Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.
Alfalfa is grown on over 21 million acres, and is worth $8 billion per year (not including the value of final products, such as dairy), making it the country’s third most valuable and fourth most widely grown crop. Alfalfa is primarily used in feed for dairy cows and beef cattle, and also contributes to pork, lamb, sheep, and honey production. Consumers also eat alfalfa sprouts.
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