Alfalfa is the fourth-largest U.S. field crop grown, worthroughly $8 billion to $10 billion and grown on about 20 million acres as food for dairy cattle and other livestock. The decision to allow planting of genetically altered version comes after years of court battles with opponents.

Developed by biotech leader Monsanto Co (MON.N) to tolerate treatments of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, “Roundup Ready” alfalfa is preferred by many farmers because it makes killing weeds easier. But opponents, including conventional and organic farmers, say the biotech alfalfa can easily contaminate their crops because alfalfa is pollinated largely by honey bees, making it difficult to isolate GMO fields from non-GMO strains.

Organic dairy farmers who feed their cows alfalfa say the biotech crop can kill their business.

Opponents also say increased use of herbicide is translating to increased weed resistance, and the rise of “super weeds.”

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The USDA has approved Monsanto’s gene-modified alfalfa.

“So what?” you say. “I don’t eat alfalfa.”

But if you eat beef, drink milk, eat cheese or ice cream, or eat any packaged food products that contain dairy, you DO eat alfalfa… as processed by cows. Alfalfa is the backbone of the beef and dairy industry.

So the organic dairy industry is about to change, in a big way: until now, being non-GMO has been a principal part of being organic. But once they let these genes out of the bottle, there’s no going back:

•    Alfalfa is an insect-pollinated crop
•    There is no way to prevent cross-contamination from fields planted with Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa to other fields.
•    These genes will contaminate the rest of America’s alfalfa crops within a few years
•    In addition to its key use in dairy farming, alfalfa has also been used as a rotation crop to recharge fields in ecologically-sound agriculture methods.

The Organic Seed Alliance is “very disappointed” with this decision (to say the least)


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The genetically modified crop — developed by Monsanto and Forage Genetics, an alfalfa seed company that is owned by the Land O’Lakes farming and dairy cooperative — contains a gene that makes the plant resistant to the herbicide Roundup. That allows farmers to spray the chemical to kill weeds without hurting the crop.

Alfalfa is grown mostly to make hay fed to dairy cows and horses. More than 20 million acres are grown in the United States; it is the nation’s fourth-largest crop by acreage, behind corn, soybeans and wheat, with a value of about $8 billion. About 1 percent of alfalfa is organic.

In deciding whether to approve the genetically engineered alfalfa, the Agriculture Department was considering restricting areas where the crop could be planted. That, Mr. Vilsack argued, would help prevent litigation, like the lawsuits that have already delayed the approval of genetically altered alfalfa and sugar beets.


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Phil Geertson had an export seed business, growing conventional alfalfa and shipping the seed to New Zealand. When his crop became contaminated with the GMO trait Phil could no longer export his seed because most countries outside of the Americas (like New Zealand) do not want GMOs on their market place. Phil did the right thing, he stopped the exports of his seed and ended up losing his business. The Center for Food Safety contacted Phil and asked him to be part of this lawsuit and with nothing to lose, he accepted. You can read an article written by Phil about his concerns associated the GMO alfalfa here.

As part of his case, Phil gathered samples of conventional and ferrel alfalfa along the roadside around the Treasure Valley and tested them for GMO contamination. 9 out of 10 samples came back as carrying the GMO trait. Contamination is already far spread and is only going to get worse. Alfalfa is the first perennial seed to become GMO and has far reaching consequences. Contamination is VERY likely. In fact it is inevitable.

We are very sad to hear this news. Alfalfa is ruined. You cannot recall the GMO gene in any crop so genetic pollution is here to stay. This will effect not only alfalfa, but organic milk and other beef products. There could be countless alfalfa and dairy producers who are totally unaware that their alfalfa could already contaminated. We could be consuming certified organic dairy also not knowing that it could be contaminated.

In addition, Phil has expressed another concern. When GMO alfalfa is sprayed with Roundup, it is harvested much sooner then other GMO crops that get sprayed with Roundup. This means that more than likely, Roundup is being transferred into our milk supply. GMO Free Idaho and Phil have discussed teaming up in the future to conduct testing of milk in which the alfalfa was sprayed with Roundup to check for herbicide contamination. Phil is certain we will find unacceptable amounts of Roundup in our milk supply.

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