U.S. Gov’t Deregulates Genetically Modified Alfalfa
The Department of Agriculture has moved to deregulate genetically engineered alfalfa. The decision is a win for one of America’s biggest agricultural companies, publicly traded Monsanto, which developed a Roundup Ready alfalfa seed with Forage Genetics International (FGI).
Genetically engineered seeds are usually touted by the makers as having three benefits: higher crop yield, weed resistance, and the possibility of resulting in enriched foods. However, their long-term impact on general health has yet to be determined. One of the most commonly used crops in America, Alfalfa is often used in hay production, which implies that the animal byproducts Americans eat may have been raised on genetically modified alfalfa.
According to the EPA, hay is a multi-billion dollar industry whose production in the U.S. exceeds 150 million tons annually. “Alfalfa is the primary hay crop grown in this country…According to the National Hay Association, the most common exports are timothy, some alfalfa, sudangrass, and bermudagrass hay. ”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) deregulated alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicide dubbed Roundup, a Monsanto product. In recent years, Monsanto has lost herbicide market share as Chinese competitors have begun selling similar products for less.
To make their decision, the USDA reportedly assembled “a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered (GE), organic, and other non-GE stakeholders.” The results yielded a go ahead for Monsanto and some measures that will reportedly monitor the sector, including the reestablishment of two USDA advisory committees: Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, and the National Genetic Resources Advisory Committee. The other moves including research plans to ensure “genetic integrity” and plans to “refine” and “extend” existing gene flow models in alfalfa. The government will also accept proposals through the Small Business Innovation Research program to enhance handling of forage seeds and detection of transgenes in alfalfa seeds and hay. There are also plans to offer voluntary and third-party audits.