Genetically modified alfalfa controversy in review

However, on January 27, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a group under USDA, announced its decision to allow nonregulated status for alfalfa “that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup.” Meaning the proposal of a GM restriction was set aside.


This turning point in the USDA’s decision is where many believe the controversy grew sporadic.


According to writers Bill Tomson and Scott Kilman from The Wall Street Journal: “The Obama administration Thursday [Jan 27] abandoned a proposal to restrict planting of genetically engineered alfalfa, the latest rule-making proposal shelved as part of the administration's review of "burdensome" regulation.”


Dr. Mercola in his article If You Eat Organic Food, Have You Just Been Betrayed, responds to Wall Street by saying the alfalfa issue is more important than the government trying to rid the system of “burdensome” regulations. Instead, he notes: “It really is shocking that Monsanto pushed so hard for GMO alfalfa approval and received it, because over 93 percent of the current alfalfa crop is NOT being treated with herbicides, so there's really no need to make it Round Up resistant.”


Dr. Mercola continued to say, “Contamination would be disastrous for organic dairy- and cattle farmers as federal organic standards forbid them from using GM crops, and organic food manufacturers will reject a food ingredient if found to be contaminated with GM material.”


So negative hype on possible cross-contamination continues as more and more chime in on reasons as to why USDA set aside any restrictions.


However, USDA chief Tom Vilsack did acknowledge these concerns in an Open Letter to Stakeholders on December 30, 2010. He stated USDA “has taken decisive steps toward looking at possible approaches to alfalfa production coexistence that are reasonable and practical.”


The word “coexistence” then turned to a chain of debates between Organic Valley, Whole Foods and USDA.


The Organic Consumers Association soon after revealed that "the USDA had approached members of the organic community and wanted them to stop filing lawsuits against genetically engineered crops and see if they could reach some kind of position on co-existence,” says Ronnie Cummins, one of the founders and the Executive Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).


Thus began the war on Whole Foods and Organic Valley. Cummins and other writers felt betrayed by the natural food community. As a result, these companies responded with their own comments. But the issue still remains, why did USDA allow nonrestriction for genetically modified alfalfa and what can we expect to see change?


For more information on the proposed betrayal from the natural food community, please view Dr. Mercola’s article. Also noted, his comment section provides a wide-range of sources where he tries “to weigh in with all the participants" of the debate.


Picture provided by ecokaren.com

Alfalfa is commonly known to be the fourth most grown crop in the United States. Farmers use the millions of acres of alfalfa to produce forage seed and hay for cows and other livestock. The controversy surrounding United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa has everyone in an uproar.

And if you’re finding yourself asking why, don’t be alarmed; many faithful readers of the media are finding themselves lost in the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reports, Whole Foods and Organic Valley responses, and the general coverage over the proposed USDA scandal.

Controversy in review:

Besides Alfalfa providing livestock feed, Alfalfa is also a major pollinator. Therefore, the concern of it cross-pollinating and transferring genetic material to other plants is an issue.

Understanding this issue, USDA in December announced that it may impose geographic restrictions on the cultivation of biotech alfalfa. According to The New York Times writer Paul Voosen, “the controls meant to limit the crops' cross-pollination with conventional and organic varieties.”

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