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Genetically Engineered (GE) Alfalfa: Why You Should Be Paying Attention

What's the deal with "GE alfalfa?" Well, around 80% of U.S. alfalfa is currently grown without pesticides. But GE alfalfa (also called "Roundup Ready" alfalfa), has been engineered to resist Roundup, an herbicide produced by Monsanto, which leads to increased dependency on chemical companies, increased chemical pollution, and a loss of biodiversity. The potential impacts on the environment and our health are at great risk. Here on the New Mexico homefront, Save New Mexico Seeds is working hard to raise public awareness and implement legislation that protects farmers from lawsuits resulting from GMO contamination.

While this might seem to be an issue that doesn't directly affect you, whether you are an urban dweller or just someone without farm animals, be assured that this MOST CERTAINLY affects you already (without you even knowing it), or will likely affect you in the future, especially if you are concerned about what you eat.  

On January 27, 2011, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that it would completely deregulate GE alfalfa. This ruling was a shock to many who followed the GE alfalfa issue as it made its way through the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit seeking to place a hold on the planting of GE alfalfa pending a full environmental impact statement (EIS), and even more of a shock given the many risks that were acknowledged in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

The same day that the USDA made their announcement deregulating GE alfalfa, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) announced that they would take legal action against the USDA's decision, claiming that "many key points were not properly assessed by the APHIS while making their decision." The CFS asserts that the "USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment."

A recent article in The Atlantic, Why You Should Care About Genetically Modified Alfalfa, lays the groundwork regarding a handful of the potential impacts of GE alfalfa (sometimes called GM, for genetically modified), including less organic forage crops, fewer organic dairy farmers, higher prices for organic consumers, less investment in organic meat and fewer conventional export opportunities. Many farmers and food systems activists are outraged. Maria Rodale, Chairman and CEO of Rodale, Inc., had a letter published by The Huffington Post (We Stand in Opposition to GE Alfalfa), that was signed and supported by 25 leading organizations and activists. These types of outcries are being published, posted and heard around the nation.

Additional Press Releases and Articles:

USDA Decision On GE Alfalfa Leaves Door Open For Contamination, Rise Of Superweeds, via the Center for Food Safety

Other resources:

Cornucopia Institute: Fact Sheet: Genetically Engineered Alfalfa



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