The Center for Food Safety today announced that it will lead a coalition of concerned farmers, consumers and environmentalists to hold USDA accountable in its responsibility to protect all farmers and consumers. The move comes in response to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) release of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that sets forth its plans to once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA plans to move ahead despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.
“Allowing Roundup Ready alfalfa to be grown in fields across America without restriction spells the elimination of farmers like me who grow alfalfa and choose not to use Monsanto’s GE crops,” said Phillip Geertson, a conventional alfalfa seed grower and plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the Center in 2007. “Bees spread pollen for miles; it’s inevitable that the GE pollen will invade conventional and organic alfalfa, making it virtually impossible to grow non-GE alfalfa in just a few years.”
In the lawsuit brought by CFS, a Federal court ruled in 2007 that the USDA’s approval of GE alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa and the development of “superweeds” that are resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup. The court banned the planting of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a rigorous analysis of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on GE alfalfa planting. In their court-ordered assessment released today, USDA once again dismissed the potential that organic and conventional alfalfa will be endangered due to biological contamination.
“GE alfalfa threatens the very fabric of the organic industry. Organic consumers want seeds and products to not be polluted by GE,” explained George Siemon, one of the founding farmers and CEO of Organic Valley. “In order for dairy products to be marketed as organic, certified organic alfalfa must be used as forage. When contamination of GE alfalfa becomes widespread, organic dairy farmers will no longer be able to give that assurance.”
“USDA’s announcement is simply business as usual, once again catering to Monsanto’s corporate interests at the expense of farmers and consumers,” stated Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “This is a huge disappointment coming from the Obama administration, which has repeatedly claimed to support family farms and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food.”
Following the release of the EIS, the USDA will announce a 60-day public comment period beginning on Friday December 18, 2009. CFS encourages all concerned parties to share their views about the future of GE alfalfa by submitting comments to the USDA. Kimbrell concluded, “We will mobilize to make sure the USDA knows that the American public will not allow their right to safe food to be taken away so easily.”