USDA Decides Genetically Modified Alfalfa Can Be Planted Without ConditionsFri, 28 Jan 2011 5:47:56 CST
Saying that “there is no question as to the safety of Roundup Ready alfalfa,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that genetically modified (GM) alfalfa can be planted “without conditions.” He explained USDA was determined to make the announcement as soon as possible to allow spring planting to go ahead without further uncertainty. We have an audio overview of this decision by USDA and some of the early reaction coming as a result of the decision- click on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of the story.
One option which USDA had considered last month was to allow GM plantings to go ahead but with geographic restrictions in order to protect organic and conventional alfalfa growers from having their crops affected by GM alfalfa. That option was not selected and USDA now faces the likely legal wrath of the anti- biotech and organic community almost immediately.
"After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they've done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful."
After releasing a final EIS in December 2010, USDA took another step to ensure that this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered (GE), organic, and other non-GE stakeholders. The stakeholders helped to identify areas of consensus; issues where the group disagreed and opportunities for further dialogue exist; and areas where USDA could – or should – play an important and helpful role.
In response to the request for support from its stakeholders, USDA is taking a number of steps, including:
* Reestablishing two important USDA advisory committees - Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, and the National Genetic Resources Advisory Committee. These two committees will tackle a broad range of issues, from ensuring the availability of high quality seed, to helping ensure that growers have access to the best tools available to support their production choices, to whether risk management and indemnification options can play a role;
* Conducting research into areas such as ensuring the genetic integrity, production and preservation of alfalfa seeds entrusted to the germplasm system;
* Refining and extending current models of gene flow in alfalfa;
* Requesting proposals through the Small Business Innovation Research program to improve handling of forage seeds and detection of transgenes in alfalfa seeds and hay; and,
* Providing voluntary, third-party audits and verification of industry-led stewardship initiatives.
Click here for a 2 page factsheet from USDA on this decision.
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