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Supreme Court Approves Monsanto’s Alfalfa – What’s Next?

Alfalfa Field

Overturning an appeals court ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that banning Monsanto’s genetically engineered alfalfa was too drastic, but it’s not too late to uphold the ban.

This is definitely a blow for folks concerned about genetically engineered crops, but it’s not the end of this battle. The ruling essentially put the power back in the hands of the USDA to decide how to handle this GM crop.

Currently, about 1% of the alfalfa in the US is this Monsanto variety – it was grandfathered in before the ban was in place. As we’ve seen with other GM crops, though, once approved its use will most likely skyrocket, and that’s bad news for organic famers.

Beyond concerns about the impacts this could have on health, alfalfa is a unique crop in that the risk for cross-contamination is incredibly high. If this GM alfalfa contaminates organic or conventional varieties, it could seriously hurt not only organic growers but exporters. Countries that ban GMOs would no longer allow imports of their alfalfa.

Organic dairy farmers are especially concerned, since alfalfa is a main component in their cows’ feed, and cross contamination would damage their organic status.

So what can we do?

It’s not over yet. The USDA has ordered an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), which they should have conducted before originally approving the crop in 2007. However, according to Food Navigator, “A draft EIS report released in December found no significant effect from the seeds on the environment or human health.”

If you’re concerned about Monsanto’s GM alfalfa, there’s still time to let the USDA know! 56 members of Congress have already spoken out against GM alfalfa, and the more voices chiming in the better! The Center for Food Safety has a helpful template letter that you can send to your representative.

You can also tell the USDA how you feel. Food & Water Watch has a simple form you can fill out to send your comments right to the USDA.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Tea Time

8 comments
  1. Vines & Cattle

    As a non organic, conventional farmer, this and another development spell trouble down the road. We farm mainly wheat and cattle, which means we have a lot of alfalfa. We've been saving back the same alfalfa variety for 30+ years, which means we'll be told that we have Roundup Ready alfalfa when the genetics jump the fence. I'm not opposed to genetic engineering, per se, it's merely an extension of crop improvement dating back through the ages. I'm not even opposed to a period of variety protection, as seed wheat farmers we sell protected varieties through Oklahoma State University, who has to have protections in place to justify the costs of breeding new varieties. What I am opposed to is telling a farmer who has never purchased Monsanto's seed that he now can't save his own seed.

    This is coming for wheat as well, Monsanto has bought a couple of small wheat breeding companies to get their foot in the door. Wheat's days of avoiding the GM battle appear to be over.

  2. Vines & Cattle

    As a non organic, conventional farmer, this and another development spell trouble down the road. We farm mainly wheat and cattle, which means we have a lot of alfalfa. We've been saving back the same alfalfa variety for 30+ years, which means we'll be told that we have Roundup Ready alfalfa when the genetics jump the fence. I'm not opposed to genetic engineering, per se, it's merely an extension of crop improvement dating back through the ages. I'm not even opposed to a period of variety protection, as seed wheat farmers we sell protected varieties through Oklahoma State University, who has to have protections in place to justify the costs of breeding new varieties. What I am opposed to is telling a farmer who has never purchased Monsanto's seed that he now can't save his own seed.

    Wheat's days of avoiding the GM question will soon be over as well, as Monsanto has purchased two small wheat breeders to get their foot in the door.

  3. Vines & Cattle

    Here ya go…

    Monsanto and BASF plan to add wheat to the crops involved in a billion-dollar joint venture to develop biotech crops.

    In a news release this morning, the companies said wheat will join corn, soybeans, cotton and canola as crops targeted for development, with biotechnology used to increase yields and drought tolerance.

    Earlier efforts to introduce a biotech wheat were shelved after growers and exporters bowed to concerns that consumers would reject products made with genetically altered wheat.
    http://tiny.cc/5yw16

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