Well, you thought it was safe to go back in the water? Not with Monsanto rearing its ugly face. Did I hear “genetically modified” again? Yep. Your organic food might not be organic anymore.
As many of you know, we have GMO corn, GMO soybeans, and now we could have de-regulated GMO alfalfa. Isn’t that rich? According to the USDA,
“On December 18, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of APHIS’ Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluates the potential environmental effects of deregulating two lines of alfalfa genetically engineered (GE) to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as Roundup®. The GE alfalfa is commonly referred to as Roundup® Ready (RR) alfalfa and is referred to as glyphosate-tolerant (GT) alfalfa in the EIS.”
You know my feelings about Round-up. Kill the weeds, kill the human. A beautiful mantra. So what about alfalfa? What is it used for?
“Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is an important perennial forage crop used around the world. Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop, in terms of acreage, grown in the United States behind corn, soybeans, and wheat. Unlike annual cropping systems, alfalfa management differs greatly due to its perennial habit of growth. The alfalfa crop will remain in the field for several growing seasons and will be harvested several times each season. Therefore, with alfalfa, management practices will not only affect the first harvest of the crop, but will also affect subsequent harvests within the life of the alfalfa stand.”  [Emphasis added.]
In addition, alfalfa is an excellent crop cover due to its nutritional properties as well as its positive environmental impact of stabilizing soils, decreasing nutrient inputs requirements, and increasing wildlife habitat.
Many of you might be saying “who cares?” I don’t eat alfalfa sprouts. But guess who eats alfalfa?
“Hay, especially good legume hay, will produce good beef and usually a profit. You will likely use about ½ to ¾ ton of hay in fattening out a steer or heifer. When it comes to hay, alfalfa is tops for beef cattle.”
Not only is alfalfa used as forage for beef cattle, it is used as feed for dairy cows due to alfalfa’s high levels of protein, calcium, and high quality fiber.  Remember those happy grazing, California Cows? I bet they are eating alfalfa.
So, now your milk and beef may be tainted with genetically modified, round resistant alfalfa.
To make matter’s worse, what about cross contaminations from GM alfalfa fields to organic fields?
“Alfalfa is cross-pollinated by bees, and this creates an opportunity for GM alfalfa to cross-pollinate with organic alfalfa, thereby causing GM contamination of the seed produced by the organic alfalfa (Center for Life Sciences and Department of Soil and Crop Sciences 2002). Along with the threat of cross-pollination creating GM contaminated progeny, seeds from GM fields can also be transported to a field by wind/animals/dirty equipment, and volunteer GM plants will result (Figure 2). Organic farmers with contracts to provide non-GM alfalfa seed will lose their contracts if even the slightest amount of GM contamination is detected (Associated Press 2002). Farmers have already faced the “seed invasion” posed by GM canola and soybeans which have blown into the fields and germinated, or have cross-pollinated with their crops and produced GM contaminated seed (Figure 3) (Cropchoice 2002).” 
Author Jacqueline Pridham of the above stated article, poses the most important ecological question concerning genetically modified alfalfa. Could genetically modified crops cause entire ecosystem alterations?
The genetic construct being introduced into alfalfa originates from a sexually incompatible organism, and this transgene has the potential to be passed not only from one crop field to the next, but also to weeds, and into the wild (Lamkey 2002). Additionally, there is the question of horizontal gene transfer, in which genetic material can be passed nonsexually from one organism to another (Lamkey 2002). Under this circumstance, the genetic construct of GM crops could potentially be transferred to microorganisms, earthworms, arthropods, insects, birds, mammals and even human beings that interact with the crops (Ho, 2002).
What can you do about it? Let the USDA know that Monsanto needs to climb back under its rock and say no to GMO alfalfa.
Need more information? See the following information sent by email to me from the True Food Network regarding their campaign to stop the USDA approving GM alfalfa:
“USDA released its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Monsanto’s GE, Roundup Ready alfalfa on December 14, 2009, and a 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010. This is the first time the USDA has done this type of analysis for any GE crop. Therefore, the final decision will have broad implications for all GE crops.
It is clear that the USDA has not taken the concerns of non-GE alfalfa farmers, organic dairies, or consumers seriously. USDA’s preliminary determination is to once again deregulate GE alfalfa without any limitations or protections for farmers or the environment. Instead USDA has completely dismissed the fact that 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 such GE contamination of organic!
USDA also claims that consumers will not reject GE contamination of organic alfalfa if the contamination is unintentional or if the transgenic material is not transmitted to the end milk or meat product, despite the fact that more than 75% of consumers believe that they are purchasing products without GE ingredients when they buy organic.
USDA claims that Monsanto’s seed contracts require measures sufficient to prevent genetic contamination, and that there is no evidence to the contrary. But in the CFS lawsuit requiring this document, the Court found that contamination had already occurred in the fields of several Western states with these same business-as-usual practices in place!
USDA predicts that the approval of GE alfalfa would damage family farms and organic markets, yet doesn’t even consider any limitations or protections against this scenario. Small, family farmers are the backbone and future of American agriculture and must be protected. Organic agriculture provides many benefits to society: healthy foods for consumers, economic opportunities for family farmers and urban and rural communities, and a farming system that improves the quality of the environment. However, the continued vitality of this sector is imperiled by the complete absence of measures to protect organic production systems from GE contamination and subsequent environmental, consumer, and economic losses.
Tell USDA That You DO Care About Genetic Contamination of Organic Crops and Food!”
On the campaign website is a sample letter that all you have to do is put in your name and send. It basically reiterates the above.
So, readers wake-up and smell the alfalfa, and say “NO!” to the USDA. If not, if may not be safe to go into the water again.
Photo by Daryl Mitchell
 Dillehay, B. and Curran, W., Guidelines for Weed Management in Roundup Ready Alfalfa, College of Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension, Penn State University.
Martin, N.P., Mertens, D.R., Hatfield, R.D., Jung, H.J. 2008. Alfalfa: forage crop of the future. In: Proceedings of the 28th Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, February 21, 2008, Cave City, Kentucky, p. 17-26.
 Jennings, J. and Pennington, J., “Forage Series. ”Alfalfa for Dairy Cattle,” University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension.
 Pridham,Jacqueline, “Impact of Roundup Ready Alfalfa on Organic Systems,” Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada.
- USDA’s Deregs Genetically Modified Alfalfa. Devastates Organics.
- Heirloom Seeds Companies I Love
- Alfalfa: How to Dry and Preserve for the Backyard Gardener.
- You’ve Got Green Mail
- Say No to Round-Up Weed Killer. Jury Still Out on Safer, Burnout II.