Friday, March 25, 2011

New GM Alfalfa Lawsuit Filed against FDA

The following is taken from a press release put out by the Center For Food Safety. You can see the full press release at:

March 18th, 2011, attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earth Justice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), arguing that the agency’s recent unrestricted approval of genetically engineered (GE), “Roundup Ready” Alfalfa was unlawful.  The GE crop is engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup.  USDA data show that 93% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. is grown without the use of any herbicides.  With the full deregulation of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year. GE alfalfa threatens the organic dairy industry, and will have farmers going back to Monsanto every year to buy its patented seed and Roundup.”

Information on GM alfalfa from prior blog:
There are 23 million acres of alfalfa.  15% of all crop land is planted in alfalfa. Until now 93% of alfalfa growing has not been sprayed with herbicides. Now with the alfalfa fields being planted with Round Up resistant seed they will be more likely to spray these fields with herbicide. This will increase the use of herbicides in the United States on this 15% of crop land and thereby increase the pollution of our land and water. It will increase the appearance of what is called super weeds.  Alfalfa puts out a lot of pollen so it will cross-pollinate all the fields near it and move Round Up Ready alfalfa seeds into organic fields. Since all the dairy cows and goats are usually fed alfalfa, there will be a complete invasion of GMO alfalfa into all alfalfa including organic alfalfa. This means all milk producing animals will be eating GMO’s eventually. This is bad news for those of us who consume milk.

OCA believes this is a premeditated act on Monsanto’s part to pollute all Alfalfa in an effort to force the organic community to weaken and allow GMO alfalfa into organics. This would then give them a door into organics that allows all GMO seeds to be allowed by the organic community in the future. Monsanto has been trying to get the organic certifying bodies to allow GMO food since the beginning of GMO seeds. It is their expectation that when their seed pollutes all the organic fields and there is only GMO alfalfa in existence that the organic farmers will not be able resist them. However, organic farmers will continue to resist GMO food. We need to be sure to do all we can to support farmers if we don’t want to continue the march of GMO food into our food chain. It is imperative that we get GMO food labeled immediately.
Full blog can be seen at: 
This is the second case challenging the legality of USDA’s handling of GE alfalfa.  In 2007, in another case brought by CFS, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of the engineered crop violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup.  The case resulted in USDA undertaking a court-ordered four-year study of GE alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Remarkably, it marked the first time USDA had ever undertaken such a study, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in over 15 years of approving GE crops for commercial production.  While USDA worked on the EIS, GE alfalfa remained unlawful to plant or sell, a ban that remained in place despite Monsanto appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs include a diverse coalition of conventional and organic farmers, dairies and agricultural associations, and environmental and consumer groups: CFS, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, California Farmers Union, Dakota Resources Council, Geertson Seed Farms, National Family Farm Coalition, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Sierra Club, Trask Family Seeds and Western Organization of Resource Councils. 

“Approving the unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa is a blatant case of the USDA serving one form of agriculture at the expense of all others,” says plaintiff Ed Maltby, Executive Director of the Northeast Alliance of Organic Dairy Producers.  “If this decision is not remedied, the result will be lost livelihoods for organic dairy farmers, loss of choice for farmers and consumers, and no transparency about GE contamination of our foods.”

Because alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can fly and cross-pollinate between fields and feral sources many miles apart, the engineered crop will contaminate natural alfalfa varieties.  Roundup Ready alfalfa is the first engineered perennial crop, meaning it remains in the ground for 3-6 years and is widely prevalent in wild or feral form throughout America, further increasing the likelihood and extent of transgenic contamination.

Approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa will spur the glyphosate-resistant epidemic that is already regarded as one of the most serious challenges facing U.S. agriculture.  Weeds evolve resistance to glyphosate just as bacteria evolve immunity to overused antibiotics.  While other Roundup Ready crops spawned the epidemic, Roundup Ready alfalfa will exacerbate it by increasing the frequency and intensity of glyphosate use on millions of acres of cropland.  Farmers respond to resistant weeds by applying more and more herbicides, soil-eroding tillage operations, and even hand-weeding on hundreds of thousands of acres.  Such “superweeds” have expanded four-fold to infest over 10 million acres since just 2008, with some projecting 38 million acres by 2013.  Alfalfa, the fourth most prevalent crop in the U.S., is grown on over 20 million acres, spanning every state.