USDA’s decision to deregulate appeared especially harsh to non-GMO and organic farmers because in December USDA’s Secretary Vilsack had announced they were working to find a compromise. USDA, he stated, would approve GM alfalfa under either complete deregulation, or partial deregulation with restrictions on where and how the crop could be grown as a way to protect non-GMO alfalfa and organic alfalfa. As late as a week before the final decision, Vilsack indicated USDA would choose partial regulation.
In a statement of principles prior to the decision, the National Organic Coalition stated, “Farmers who seek to avoid GMOs must not continue to be solely responsible for contamination prevention and clean-up and/or be forced to give up growing certain crops.” But the decision to deregulate puts the burden of preventing contamination firmly on the backs of organic and non-GMO producers. USDA has not provided evidence of proven methods for preventing contamination.
But you might ask, is there a real need for Roundup Ready alfalfa? The bio-technology industry argues that commercial alfalfa growers complain of weed problems or thin stands. Weeds in Roundup resistant alfalfa could be sprayed without damaging the alfalfa. But any good farmer knows that the best answer to the problem is to implement a vigorous crop rotation.
The organic sector has been a profitable part of a diverse U.S. agricultural economy—a 26 billion dollar a year industry that helps keep almost 15,000 family farms operating. Double- digit annual growth has been the norm for nine of the past ten years.
The Center for Food Safety, the non-profit group who fought the earlier legal battles on GE alfalfa, vows to seek a court order immediately reversing and voiding USDA’s approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa. “We will be back in court,” Andrew Kimbrell, CFS Executive Director stated, “ representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment and consumer choice.”