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During the Bush administration, Monsanto illegally won USDA approval for its genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa by convincing regulators to bypass a mandatory environmental review. In response to a lawsuit by consumer groups, the courts then stepped in and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA followed the law.
In December, the USDA released its belated review of Monsanto's GE alfalfa seed and determined that Monsanto's alfalfa met the Obama Administration's standards, despite the risk of organic contamination.
This conclusion came despite the acknowledgment by USDA researchers that GE alfalfa is virtually certain to "contaminate" normal seeds. Cross-contamination is the number one concern with genetically engineered crops.
Organic contamination is devastating for organic farmers, especially organic dairy farmers, most of whom use organic alfalfa for feed. The presence of even the smallest amount of GE material can cause a farm to lose its organic certification. And court documents indicate that early plantings of GE alfalfa did contaminate conventional alfalfa. Yet the USDA maintains that Monsanto's existing safety protocols are good enough. This is ridiculous!
Even worse, the USDA concluded that the possibility of contamination of organic fields is of no concern, since consumers won't care if their organic food or milk contains genetically engineered components. Yet central to the definition of the USDA Organic label is the total absence of genetically modified ingredients. An overwhelming majority of consumers buy organic to avoid GE products and would be shocked to learn the USDA is so cavalier about the risks of transgenic contamination.
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