USDA released its Environmental Impact Statement on Roundup Ready alfalfa, which evaluates the environmental effects of degregulating the genetically modified seed. Although this is not a decision document — that is more than a month away — it does indicate that USDA is leaning toward either full deregulation of GE alfalfa, or deregulation accompanied by a combination of isolation distances and geographic restrictions on the production of GE alfalfa seed and, in some locations, hay.
"Our goal with the EIS, first and foremost, is to recognize and consider the many concerns that we have heard from all segments of agriculture," said Secretary Vilsack. "We are equally committed to finding solutions that support not only the developers and users of biotechnology products, but growers who rely on purity in the non-genetically engineered seed supply."
The GE alfalfa issue is important to organic farmers on several levels. Those who grow organic alfalfa are concerned that GE contamination will cause their products to lose market value and force them to bear the burden and expense of proving their crops are not contaminated. In addition, many commercial organic fertilizers contain alfalfa, and many small-scale growers rely on alfalfa meal alone as a soil amendment. If organic alfalfa crops are contaminated by the GE crops, certified organic growers will lose an important source of fertility.
To learn more:
USDA's press release on the final EIS
The Organic Trade Association's position on preventing GE contamination