Genetically modified alfalfa officially on the way
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the unrestricted planting of genetically modified alfalfa sold by Monsanto Co. and Forge Genetics.
The Washington Post reported that the decision, announced Jan. 27, is a blow to the organic foods industry, which complains that modified seeds can contaminate their organic crops through pollination, bringing genetically modified foods into their fields.
The Agriculture Department has said the modified alfalfa - used primarily for hay for cattle - is safe, but some consumers don't want to eat foods derived from it, including milk or beef, according to The Post article. Farmers who use the seeds say they boost their crop yields and help reduce prices for consumers in the grocery store.
The nonprofit Center for Food Safety vowed to seek a court order immediately reversing and voiding the approval, UPI.com reported.
Plenty of others are protesting online.
The Atlantic writes that "the Obama administration showed whose side it is on in the battle between proponents of sustainable, organic agriculture and the big businesses that profit from conventional, chemical agriculture. Big Ag won. It wasn't even close."
"What's worse is that Vilsack chose to fully deregulate GE alfalfa, a plan that basically puts a no-holds bar on the planting of the crop. Alfalfa was the first GE crop where the USDA proposed partial deregulation, a move that would have limited the crop's planting to non-seed-growing regions in order to prevent contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa. Even that compromise was a no-go..."
Bnet.com, a blog from CBS, argues that the plan will drive the price of organic dairy higher because alfalfa is such an important part of cows’ diets. Fast Company goes further, saying the decision ultimately could kill the organic beef and dairy industries.
On the other side, the Biotechnology Industry Organization praised the decision for being "based on sound science and two decades of regulatory precedent." The National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Asosocation are among others voicing support.