Organic Food: GMO Alfalfa is Still on the Menu

Organic Food Today put out a press release that talks about the court's decision to deregulate Genetically Modified (GM) / Genetically Engineered (GE) Alfalfa. The release states, "The impact statement, ordered by the Supreme Court, evaluates the potential environmental effects of deregulating alfalfa engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, otherwise known as Monsanto's Roundup Ready product.

"In June the Supreme Court required a final EIS be put into place before growers can again plant RR alfalfa. A draft EIS in December 2009 examined two alternatives: continuing to regulate the two lines of RR alfalfa, or deregulating the two lines. The final EIS examines a third alternative, geographic restrictions and isolation distances."

The concern by organic farmers, of course, is the possibility of cross-contamination by GMO crops. Research shows that a mile "buffer zone" is sufficient for organic farms and GMO farms to co-exist, but there are a few problems with that logic. First, crops that are pollinated by bees need a much larger buffer zone and gusty winds could carry wind-pollinated crops further than a mile. And a mile is far more than has been discussed for buffer zones by officials. Somewhere I read it was closer to 150 feet. The second issue is the "wasted space" of the buffer zone in industrial farming that typically does not use crop rotation as a method of production. Depending on the crop in question, it can mean for a lot of fallow land, basically strapped between technology and organic farming.

The Wall street journal states, "Organic farmers go to great lengths to make sure their crops are free of any genetically modified plant material, including leaving their fields fallow for the first three years, said Christine Bushway, chief executive of the Organic Trade Association" And organic farmers are required to go through great lengths to ensure that certification standards are met. Cross pollination of genetically modified crops into an organic crop can jeopardize an organic farm's certification and therefore could easily ruin a small farm during the three-year re-certification process.

The best way for us to make our stand against any genetically modified food is to simply buy organic whenever possible; especially when it comes to things like corn, soy, wheat, sugar or any dairy product which benefits from the use of any alfalfa as fodder. Until we have sufficient, tested evidence that says genetically modified food is proven safe (aside from the moral issue of cross-splicing species), organic food is our best plan of action against genetically modified foods.

Photo credit: jessicareeder