GMO Alfalfa: Issues of Cross-Contamination and Biodiversity

Continued from Part One

In the case of alfalfa, it is a wind-pollinated crop. That means rather than primarily by birds or insects, pollen is simply spread by the wind. Already, farmers need to maintain a certain responsibility with wind-pollinated crops to ensure that they do not cross pollinate with other familial open-pollinated crops in either their own or neighboring fields. Even more imperative is this in the case of genetically modified plants for several reasons:

  • Neighboring farms can easily take on unwanted traits of the GMO by cross-contamination by either wind or insect-pollinated plants if an insufficient barrier is not enforced.
  • GMO cross-contamination creates the possibility of a violation of copyright by the patented owner of the technology, therefore risking the neighboring farm to unfair litigious consequences.
  • GMO crops potentially render future seed for neighboring farm completely useless by cross contamination,  destroying the earnest work of collection and preservation by generations of small farmers and seed collectors.
  • Because GMO crops are designed to be strong, they actually discourage biodiversity by strong-arming the environment resulting in the encouragement of monocrops, i.e. one variety of corn, soy, cotton or alfalfa instead of a rich and diverse collection of heirloom varieties which will naturally contain resistance to certain blights and/or pests. Monocrops facilitate crop dependence, thus food insecurity.
  • We are already seeing a steady and significant decline in our bee population in the United States, which probably-not-so coincidentally marked its declination around 1970, when streamlined agriculture went aggressive. The use of pest-resistant GMO crops will resist pests, yes: sometimes unintended and/or beneficial pests. And many of the targeted pests will use natural selection to their benefit and build up resistance requiring more and more advances in technology or more pesticide to be applied for successive crop generations.  Further, wildlife that feeds on insects (birds, bats, amphibians and a host of mammals) may also be affected by insects poisoned by either genetically modified crops or additional applications of pesticides.

Open-pollinated crops are crops by which the farmer, gardener, seed bank or seed enthusiast can save the seed from the strongest fruits for planting the following season or future use. Organic and heirloom seeds can last up to a decade; some varieties can last much, much longer than that. These  open-pollinated seeds are key to both our independence and our food security for the future.

Natural blights occur with every crop. It is a natural action and part of a sensitive ecosystem. Blights should be able to happen when they happen, and we should be able to have enough biodiversity to be willfully unaffected. That is the true nature of food safety and of food independence.

Continue to Part Three

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