It’s sometime difficult to get a grasp on how national policy on something as far down the food chain as alfalfa affects us as consumers. The USDA’s recent approval of unrestricted planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered alfalfa, though, has widespread ramifications, from the ground up to our plates:
- Soil: 83% of U.S. alfalfa is now grown without herbicides. GE alfalfa is designed to be used with the herbicide Roundup, another Monsanto product, meaning increased chemical pollution and dependency on chemical companies.
- Seed: Alfalfa is open-pollinated; meaning Monsanto’s patented DNA can be easily spread, contaminating both conventional and organic crops, with seed growing regions at particular risk. Also, GE seeds can be spread when bales of hay are sold from farmer to farmer, and with the movement of harvest and transport equipment.
- Pollen: Bees are a common pollinator; carrying GE pollen from alfalfa back to their hives contaminates the production of honey and contributes to the decline of bee colonies.
- Forage & Feed: Alfalfa is a fundamental source of livestock forage, and is the primary source of protein for animals raised by livestock producers. Forage and feed contaminated by GE alfalfa means risk of contaminated livestock and, for organic producers in particular, loss of certification.
- Meat & Dairy: If you eat meat and dairy, you are indirectly eating alfalfa; ruminant related foods that could be compromised by GE alfalfa include milk, cheese, beef and lamb. Also, loss of organic certification due to GE contamination of feed means less availability of organic dairy and meat, and higher prices for consumers.
- Choice: GE is not labeled or tracked in our food supply; this means consumers are unable to identify and avoid GE food.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s deregulation of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa means farmers are now able to plant Roundup Ready GE alfalfa without restrictions nationally as soon as this spring. To learn more and take action:
Cornucopia Institute: Fact Sheet: Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
Center for Food Safety: GE Food
Food & Water Watch: Action Alert
Organic Trade Association: Action Alert