The recent ruling by the USDA to allow genetically engineered alfalfa has created a big buzz in the organic food industry. There is great concern over the impact the genetically modified alfalfa will have on organic farming.
The alfalfa has been modified to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate). Use of this genetically modified alfalfa will result in approximately 23 million more pounds of glyphosate being released into the environment every year. This will be added to the yearly total of 531 million pounds already used in the United States.
Just as bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, weeds are also developing more and more resistance to herbicides such as glyphosate. This results in an increased use of herbicides to control the increasingly resistant weed strains. Because alfalfa grows in a very dense pattern it is naturally resistant to weed infestation. As a result alfalfa has often been used in rotation to give land a natural break from the use of herbicides.
Japan, Egypt and the EU have banned genetically modified foods while the USA has continued to expand their use. The good news is the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice have filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture to argue that the approval of GMO alfalfa was unlawful.
Reuters recently published an article discussing the dangers of herbicides such as glyphosate. There are those such as Dr. Don Huber retired scientist from Purdue who warned the Agriculture Secretary that certain herbicides may be contributing to abortions and infertility in livestock. Glyphosate can predispose plants to disease and toxins according to Dr. Huber. Dr. Huber says “Toxins produced can infect the root and head of the plant . . .the toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.” The Institute of Science in Society has called for a global ban on glyphosate because they claim glyphosate is highly toxic to human cells.
So you may ask, what does this have to do with me? I don’t eat alfalfa. It starts with the bees that for the most part pollinate alfalfa crops. Honeybees have a range of 5 miles or more from their hives. So a honeybee can easily carry pollens from the genetically modified alfalfa to the wild growing or natural alfalfa. This would cause the natural varieties of alfalfa to become cross contaminated with the genetic material of the genetically modified alfalfa. In turn, this would make it very difficult for people producing organic meat and organic dairy products to keep their animals away from exposure to the genetic modified alfalfa.
Many farmers may have to give up organic production or find a different crop to feed their animals, resulting in a decreased supply of organic food. The natural result of decreased supply is an increased cost to you the consumer for organic milk, dairy and beef.
So what can you do about this problem?
- You can educate yourself on GMO’s and food. Watch the film The Future of Food to learn more about GMO’s or Food Inc.
- Contact the US Department of Agriculture and let them know your opinion.
- Write your representative, senator., and president.
- Purchase and eat organic foods.
Please leave your comments and let me know what you think of this issue.