The next skirmish over genetically modified foods is getting underway, pitting a coalition of environmental, consumer and food-safety groups against the federal government.
Early this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved unrestricted planting of a type of GM alfalfa engineered by Monsanto. To the average consumer, that might not sound like such a big deal-after all, we're not rabbits.
But rabbits aren't the only animals that like to munch on the sweet grass. Alfalfa is the primary food source for cows, too. No only that, but alfalfa has a wily propensity to cross-pollinate across miles; over time, opponents say, there's no way to ensure that the GM variety doesn't intermix with the non-GM variety.
What that means is that the government's decision to approve the use of GM alfalfa could spell the end of organic dairy products, ranging from milk to yogurt. By law, no GM ingredients can be used in the production of anything labeled "organic."
Opponents also charge that widespread use of GM alfalfa will result in the release of an estimated 23 million more pounds of toxic chemicals into the environment. That's because Monsanto developed its GM alfalfa to withstand application of its Roundup herbicide. Currently, more than 90 percent of the alfalfa grown in the U.S. does not use any herbicide, according to the UDSA. Critics say that planting GM alfalfa will not only lead to more herbicide use, it will encourage an already growing problem of herbicide-resistant weeds, so-called "superweeds."
A broad coalition of groups, ranging from environmental organizations such as Earthjustice to public advocacy groups such as the Center for Food Safety, have filed suit in federal court to block USDA's decision.
"Approving the unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa is a blatant case of the USDA serving one form of agriculture at the expense of all others," says one of the plaintiffs in the case, in a press release issued by the coalition. "If this decision is not remedied, the result will be lost livelihoods for organic dairy farmers, loss of choice for farmers and consumers, and no transparency about [GM] contamination of our foods."
- Experts say contamination from GMO alfalfa is certain. Read more at The Huffington Post.
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