Read the Sign-on Letter (pdf)
In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA failed to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) before deregulating the crop. An EIS is a rigorous analysis of the potential significant impacts of a federal decision. The federal courts sided with CFS and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an EIS. They released a draft EIS on December 14, 2009. Draft EIS | Supplemental documents
It appears USDA again intends to deregulate GE alfalfa without any limitations or protections for farmers, consumers or the environment. In the new EIS, the USDA has completely dismissed the fact that GE contamination will threaten export and domestic markets and organic meat and dairy products. And, incredibly, USDA is claiming that there is no evidence that consumers care about GE contamination of organic. We know that's not true, and most of the 200,000 comments that USDA received during its DEIS comment period earlier this year argued against the USDA's findings.
This is the first time the USDA has done this analysis for any GE crop, so the final decision will have broad implications for all GE crops. The failure of the agency to address the impacts of GE alfalfa will have far-reaching consequences for farmers and organic consumers. Let's not be Monsanto's guinea pigs!
Urge your Senators and Rep to sign onto the Leahy/DeFazio letter to USDA head Tom Vilsack. Call your elected officials directly, or take action at the True Food Network.
Thanks for all you do!
USDA claims that there is no evidence that consumers care about contamination of organic alfalfa and alfalfa-derived foods with Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready alfalfa.
USDA claims that consumers will not reject GE contamination of organic alfalfa if the contamination is unintentional or if the GE material is not transmitted to the end milk or meat product.
Although USDA says it supports “coexistence” of all types of agriculture, USDA refuses to even consider any future for alfalfa that would include protections from contamination for organic and conventional farmers and exporters.
USDA claims that Monsanto’s seed contracts require measures sufficient to prevent GE contamination. But according to Fred Kirschenmann, Iowa Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow, alfalfa is impossible to contain. “Alfalfa is a perennial with a three-mile pollination radius, so farm buffers won’t work.”
USDA admits (correctly) that introduction of Roundup Ready alfalfa will increase Roundup use. However, USDA’s claims that the increase is not significant and that Roundup will replace other, more toxic herbicides are flat-out wrong.
USDA concludes that GE alfalfa will cause production to shift to larger farms (that can afford built-in isolation distances) and conventional growers who are not threatened by GE contamination, but that these economic shifts are not significant.
USDA provided only a 60-day comment period, from Dec 16-Feb 16.
[i] Organic Community Comments to APHIS, Proposed Rule and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Introduction of Genetically Engineered Organisms, APHIS Docket 2008-002, June 29, 2009.
[ii] United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement—November 2009. P.95.
[iii] See, e.g., New Study Finds GM Genes in Wild Mexican Maize, New Scientist, Feb. 21, 2009; Rex Dalton (2008) Modified genes spread to local maize: findings reignite debate over genetically modified crops, Nature, 456 (7219), 2000, at 149; The Institute for Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA), Chile enters the list of countries contaminated with GMOs: A report from INTA has detected transgenic contamination of maize in the fields of central Chile, Oct. 22, 2008; Graeme Smith, Illegal GM Crops Found In Scotland, Herald, Sept. 13, 2008; Elizabeth Rosenthal, Questions on Biotech Crops with No Clear Answers, N.Y. Times, June 6, 2006; Gene Flow underscores growing concern over biotech crops, Associated Press, Sept. 22, 2004; Andrew Pollack, Can Biotech Crops be Good Neighbors?, N.Y. Times, Sept. 26, 2004; Lyle F. Friesen et al., Evidence of contamination of pedigreed canola (Brassica napus) seedlots in Western Canada with genetically engineered herbicide resistance traits, 95 Agron. J., 1342-1347 (2003); Simon Jeffery, Rogue genes: An unauthorised strain of GM crops has been found across England and Scotland., Guardian, Aug. 16, 2002; Alex Roslin, Modified Pollen hits organic farms: Genetically altered strains spread by wind, Toronto Star, Sept. 30, 2002; Fred Pearce, The Great Mexican Maize Scandal, New Scientist 2347, June 15, 2002.
[iv] Greenpeace International. GM Contamination Register Report 2007, February 28, 2008, at www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/gm-contamination-register-2007.
[v] See, e.g., K.L. Hewett, The Economic Impacts of GM Contamination Incidents on the Organic Sector, 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress, Modena, Italy, June 16-20, 2008.
[vi] Smyth et al .(2002). Liabilities and Economics of Transgenic Crops, 20 Nature Biotechnology, June 2002, at 537-541.
[viii]United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement—November 2009. Appendix J, J-25, EIS pp. 34 & 43.
[ix] Hardell, L., & Eriksson, M. (1999). “A Case-Controlled Study of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides,” Cancer, 85(6), 1353–1360; Hardell L, Eriksson M, & Nordstrom M. (2002). “Exposure to pesticides as risk factor for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and hairy cell leukemia: pooled analysis of two Swedish case-control studies,” Leuk Lymphoma, 43(5), 1043-1049; De Roos, et al. (2003). “Integrative assessment of multiple pesticides as risk factors for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among men,” Occup Environ Med, 60(9); De Roos, A. J. D., Blair, A., Rusiecki, J. A., Hoppin, J. A., Svec, M., Dosemeci, M., Sandler, D. P., & Alavanja, MC .2005. Cancer Incidence among Glyphosate‐Exposed Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113(1), 49‐54.
[x] Relyea, R.A. (2005a). “The lethal impact of Roundup on aquatic and terrestial amphibians,” Ecological Applications 15(4): 1118–1124; Relyea et al (2005). “Pesticides and amphibians: The importance of community context,” Ecological Adaptations 15: 1125-1134; Relyea, R.A. (2005b). “The letal impacts of Roundup and predatory stress on six species of North American tadpoles,” Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 48: 351-57.