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USDA Caves In to Monsanto on Roundup Ready Alfalfa

1/31/2011 11:35:35 AM

Tags: Roundup Ready, alfalfa, genetically modified food, GMO, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Organic Consumers Association, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Ironically, while I was touring organic and biodynamic farms in Costa Rica last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a decision that leaves Americans decidedly more vulnerable to genetically engineered food. With the Obama administration’s backing, the USDA announced it would grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s commercial herbicide known as Roundup. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the agency has determined that “Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa.” Huh.

Grist senior food and agriculture writer Tom Philpott called the decision “a complete USDA cave-in to the biotech industry's demands, and yet more evidence that Obama wants to be seen as a friend to powerful business interests—at the expense of smaller, less powerful interests like organic alfalfa and dairy growers, and, in this case, of the public interest.”

Alfalfa, which serves mainly as cow feed, represents about 7 percent of U.S. cropland, or 20 million acres. According to Philpott, genetically modified alfalfa can easily cross-breed with non-GM alfalfa, putting organic growers at risk. Organic Consumers Association (OCA) president Ronnie Cummins predicted the chemical- and energy-intensive Roundup Ready alfalfa is “guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.”

According to a recent Thomson Reuters Pulse Healthcare Survey, only 25 percent of Americans completely understand genetic engineering and 93 percent believe GMO foods should be labeled. The OCA has launched a nationwide Truth-in-Labeling campaign to stop Monsanto from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans. To help organize or coordinate a Millions Against Monsanto and Factory Farms Truth-in-Labeling campaign in your community, go to


Fields of Roundup Ready alfalfa could disastrously contaminate organic crops and pave the way for more superweeds.  

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J Schick
2/27/2011 1:09:37 PM
..."environmentally friendly"? The only environment Roundup is friendly with is a sick, dying, cancer-ridden one from which the rich and powerful are separated.

2/16/2011 11:49:55 AM
Round-Up is not as crazy as you would think. Round-Up ready crops actually reduce the total amount of herbicides that are going to be put out, because instead of mixing 2, 3, or 4 herbicides, farmers can just use one. Non-organic farms are pretty much going to use herbicides one way or the other, and Round-up is pretty much the safest (that is why you can buy it for your home use). It is much safer to get on you than gasoline, and is non-toxic (it won't hurt your immune system). Also, once it has been sprayed, it binds tightly to the soil and has a short half life, so it doesn't even have a chance of hurting anything but the plants. Even in organics, the heavy tillage used to control weeds in crops like corn and soybean (around 7 passes with a tractor) cause more problems than Round-up, such as exposing the soil to soil erosion, and disrupting the the soil biota. Currently the most environmentally friendly weed control is Round-up.

Linda E.
2/12/2011 11:04:31 PM
Monsanto has patents on thes gmo seeds, and when their crops cross-pollinate with farmers crops, they have accused farmers in countries such as India of stealing their patent and not buying seed from them. This seed is going to be fed to cows and horses, and will end up in milk, butter, sour cream, yogurt, meat, and this roundup stuff is will knock out your immune system. Even the gmo corn in cornflakes, corn syrup, etc. will mess up your immune system. It's another big plot of the "Windsor Global Food Cartel". They control us by what they feed to us. Everything has fluoride in it, which makes people docile and not able to think. (it is aluminum shavings) They are passing all kinds of laws so they can do whatever they want to us. They will try to make illegal the possession of heirloom seed, and truck farming where you sell to other people good food. They want everybody sick, or dead. We'd better do what we can now.

Linda E.
2/12/2011 11:02:32 PM
Monsanto has patents on thes gmo seeds, and when their crops cross-pollinate with farmers crops, they have accused farmers in countries such as India of stealing their patent and not buying seed from them. This seed is going to be fed to cows and horses, and will end up in milk, butter, sour cream, yogurt, meat, and this roundup stuff is will knock out your immune system. Even the gmo corn in cornflakes, corn syrup, etc. will mess up your immune system. It's another big plot of the "Windsor Global Food Cartel". They control us by what they feed to us. Everything has fluoride in it, which makes people docile and not able to think. (it is aluminum shavings) They are passing all kinds of laws so they can do whatever they want to us. They will try to make illegal the possession of heirloom seed, and truck farming where you sell to other people good food. They want everybody sick, or dead. We'd better do what we can now.

2/12/2011 5:17:30 AM
Caves in? As in USDA caves in? When you have a government agency that has "seemed" to be in cahoots with a company since day one, "caves in" does not seem like a fitting expression. That expression implies they were forced into it. Any one who believes that went "through the looking glass" with Alice and never made it back. Maybe the expression should be "USDA same old, same old". As to the comment by greg_id, all I have to say is that even if "only" 25% of Americans wanted GMOs labeled, they should be. Why? Everyone should have the right to know what they put in their bodies. If, for some "strange" (for them) reason "our" government decided that all food needs to be label for something as simple as the amount of calories, then it should be a no brainer to label them for whatever it is that a GMO company added in. Me, I'll continue planting my own food and crossing my finger no one near me decides to plant the stuff and contaminate my food source.

jim adams
2/10/2011 9:40:51 PM
What's missing for me is an oversight agency. We've done things like this all thru the early years of America. We're still doing it today ... introducing new species because we thought it would be good to have. Some worked out, some didn't. Some of the ones that didn't were: starlings, Scottish thistle, pond weed, the chestnut blight and Dutch Elm disease, West Nile virus, the zebra mussel .... Many introduced species were deliberate, some were carelessness, some were accidental. This site has an analysis of the effects of these invading species: And what Monsanto is proposing and doing is an escalation. They are creating and disseminating new species. I argue that we as a nation, have been burnt by our many bad choices that someone thought good. This is more of the same only stronger.And unfortunately (I think), this is only the beginning

2/8/2011 10:47:38 PM
While I do not support Round-up ready crops because they just allow more herbicides to be dumped. I do believe that genetic engineering can help improve agriculture. I also believe that GE and Organic should not be mutually exclusive. This quote is pretty telling about why so many are afraid of GE crops "only 25 percent of Americans completely understand genetic engineering and 93 percent believe GMO foods should be labeled" It reminds me of the Luddites in 19th century Britain.

Sarah Luffman
2/7/2011 3:49:35 PM
Other countries will not purchase foods from the US that are genetically altered. For this reason, Monsanto must grow genetically altered food to feed Americans. For money, we will send unaltered foods to foreign countries while we feed our own people foods that have the potential to cause cancer, autism or who knows what. We are not a free people either, we have become so passive that we are being slowly being deceived and the next generation will not have the ability or knowledge to stand up to corruptive government. Each family should be teaching their children about these dangers, but then it takes time and effort and most have become lazy and prefer to remain ignorant of what is really happening around them. They don't even watch the news or try to learn to do anything for themselves. We are being slowly boiled like a frog, the heat started out so slowly that by the time the people realize the water is boiling it will be too late.

Janet Gardner_4
2/5/2011 3:40:14 PM
I am 69 years old and have felt all my life that my government was taking care of thing regardless of which party was in power. Lately, however, I have given up! Did not vote in 2010 and do not plan to do so again. I'm joining the local transitions movement instead in the hopes changes can be made on the local, grassroots level. Janet

Patricia P. Tursi
2/5/2011 1:38:46 PM
Vilsack, Sec of AG, is an attorney. He knows little about agriculture. He was appointed because, when Governor of Iowa he was a GE promoter. He also was the leader of the US Governor's GE Association. Along with the Monsanto appointees, he was chosen because of his GE backing. He didn't was planned. Obama loves GE...while Michelle gets the news for planting an Organic Garden on the White House lawn...What hypocrisy and deceit. Would love to know the soft money back of this!

Robyn Griggs Lawrence
2/5/2011 10:12:56 AM
I look forward to vigorous debate on the science behind GE crops and Roundup. I personally believe both are dangerous. My question for President Obama and Tom Vilsack is why I have no right as a consumer to choose for myself whether to ingest Roundup Ready crops. At the very least, give us truth in labeling. You can find links to make your voice heard at Grassroots efforts scored us organic standards a decade ago. We can do the same with GMOs.

J Schick
2/5/2011 8:09:20 AM
In response to Kukuruz: The problem is that we don't have enough information on GMO to be sure they are safe; I am actually interested in biotech. The bigger issue with Roundup-Ready crops it the Roundup, which has been shown to be dangerous.

2/5/2011 6:44:52 AM
Corporations like Monsanto get away with this because there is money to be made. That is the sole reason for their existence. No amount of signatures on a petition will stop the money from flowing into the CEO's pockets, so why should they care what you think? There are more people who don't care what they eat than there are people who do, and those people go to the grocery store. The majority of Americans want cheap, easily-prepared, uniform-looking food. Eventually people die from it, and their survivors will try to prove that pesticide-laden food (brought to you by Monsanto) is the cause. Guess what? Monsanto can afford better lawyers. Read the number of "likes" at the top of this page. 378. To Monsanto, 378 people is feed for half a backyard chicken. It's nothing. We are a few crazy granola-eating, Mother Earth News-reading tree-huggers to them. When MILLIONS of people grow their own vegetables and fruits from certified organic seed, and eat ONLY those foods, and stop buying poisonous food from the grocery store, that's when the government will listen. Plant seeds, and your neighbors' seeds, eat your own and your neighbors' vegetables, and THEN write some letters to Monsanto and to your grocery store. Monsanto will dry up when the money does. That's the bottom line.

2/4/2011 6:01:53 PM
I Am Oposed to GMOs 100% because Of all the info on the suject you can find on the internet All of you who are oposed should checkout the following website... This is an excellent website for gmo Info.

n hibbitts
2/4/2011 6:00:31 PM
Unfortunately I'm not surprised; this kind of crap has been going on in some form or another for years. There are other genetically modified cropsthat have been bred to be round up resistant and the insanity continues with usda in their back pocket. It's not enough to genetically modify corn that cross pollinates with any within miles and traces will show up in milk and meat. Round up has been shown to kill trees in TX and elsewhere although the label says not to...point is if it does that how can it be safe for use near food crops. Again multinational corporations win, organic and the general public lose. How will this ever stop?!

Jan Hayes
2/4/2011 12:06:36 PM
Actually there is a lot of data out there that proves the claims on the damage of using Roundup and many of the pesticieds. Also tons of information on the problems of GMO's etc. I can point you to the book written by Maria Rodale "Organic Manifesto" to start with. She has listed many links, addresses, books. You just have to be willing to do a little reasearch yourself.

2/4/2011 7:56:07 AM
Any one of you GMO bashers have any evidence, data or anything besides scary anecdotes from Aunt Bettie to support your alarmist rants? When you try to bash science you should use scientific principles which includes presenting valid unbiased data to dispute the existing science. Got any? Anyone? I actually support most organic principles except when the disciples treat as religion and facts and data go out the window.

J Schick
2/3/2011 8:57:12 PM
It should be the other way around, but it won't be until a huge majority of the general population both knows and cares about the damage that Monsanto is inflicting. Now, the latter should sound easy once the former is achieved, but many people seem unwilling to believe what they are told or to change their lifestyle if it involves any 'sacrifice'. We must make these fraudulent acts so apparent that they are impossible to ignore-people will listen if they are shown something directly. In my opinion, Monsanto's greed is despicable, and I am disgusted by what they have done- to our 'justice' system, our land, and to us. They took a perfectly useful technology and manipulated it for their own gain at our expense, and then used that gain to take more from the rest of us. It's past time that we stand up and refuse to continue to be played in their twisted games.

1 Wreck
2/3/2011 3:36:14 PM
My question - So why does the organic farm group not sue Monsanto for "littering" and destroying property with the cross-pollination? Seem to me that with Massive law-suits across the country(no class action suit) this problem would receive the attention it deserves. As an attorney once told me ... When going to court with this type of thing.. "by throwing enough ummm 'stuff' onto the ceiling something is bound to stick" to slow down this nonesense.

Allison Day Bees Action Network_2
2/3/2011 5:57:48 AM
Bees Action Network is campaigning in Europe to stop the growing of GM crops. We view what is happening in the US as a result of successive government backing for GM with sympathy and dismay. The situation with alfalfa is another blow. In europe we are also fighting this insidious threat as the EU gives the green light to GM without any reference to the general population - even though 70% have said we don't want it. Everything your correspondent and the subsequent comments state are true. We have to stand up and say NO. We have a petition on our website calling for a total ban on the growing of GM crops in the EU, the US and the world. Please sign. If we get a million signatures the EU will have to look at this issue again. Otherwise all of us - the US, the EU and the rest of the world, bees, wildlife and the planet are lost.

J C Cope
2/2/2011 8:24:16 PM
Once again this just shows that our President and most of Congress on in the back pockets of big corps and if the truth really be told could care less about the average American. After watching a few shows about big Agriculture Business, company's like big M should be put on a leash and not be telling the USDA what is safe or not. It should be the other way around.

Jan Steinman
2/2/2011 6:37:44 PM
Did Vilsack fly in on a Monsanto corporate jet to deliver his decision, like he used to when governing Iowa?

2/2/2011 5:50:48 PM
In answer to Rex S. Yesssssssssssssssssss... Monsanto WILL sue farmers who, out of no fault of their own, have crops that are cross-contaminated- pollinated by the wind , etc. It happed in Iowa. The farmer is now lost and can't pay the huge find. Monsanto WON.. his crop LoST!!! People you need to wake up and smell the Round up Ready. I have seen , for myself, new born calves with terrible health issues related to the feed their mother's ate. Monsanto seeds and Round up Ready . They promise the farmers so much and in disguise. Try talking with a seed REP.. that will make ya angry!! Did me. Everyone is afraid of rbst in the milk.. get serious.. The industry was stripped of it's technology and now only POISONS RULE the dairy and beef industry. Wise up America...........Keep reading and responding.

r barbee
2/2/2011 5:18:08 PM
We need to flow the white house with emails letters etc to let this government know that we oppose this. Unfortunately monsanto will never stop pushing to get what it wants, we all know that greed knows no limits. Write somebody!

Rex Smith
2/2/2011 4:15:44 PM
The real question down the road will be: Will Monsanto start suing private farmers and growers of alfalfa because of cross-pollination contamination? (if you are unfamiliar with that - do a bit of research on soybean seeds that have been similarly "engineered" to withstand RoundUp - yet growers who use Monsanto-based seeds are not allowed to use any of their crop to re-seed for the next growing season. They must re-buy seeds from Monsanto. Adjacent farmers who have had pollination crossed from Monsanto-based seeds have markers that are tracable in the plant/seeds... thus allowing Monsanto to sue them for theft... Yes - even though it may have been caused by pollination.

2/2/2011 1:06:15 PM
Chemical companies spend big time dollars lobbying and advertising to get their way. I subscribe to Produce and Fruit Growers magazines and have commented on their blogs. But they have obviously put me on their no comment list. My last four comments were not acknowledged. I believe it is because of my comments against the chemical industry and specifically about my accusation that the chemical companies might be importing some of these new bugs to distribute them in America for the purpose of increasing sales of their pesticides and fungicides! Boy, am I paranoid or what? How could I think such a thing.

Marilyn Pratt
2/2/2011 12:24:24 PM
It is very interesting to watch what is happening in Egypt this week, and to consider their uprising for freedom while looking at how the USDA has removed our freedom. What will it take for us to take back our health, and the health of the planet? What will finally drive us to our own uprising?

w. a. Mackay
2/2/2011 11:33:40 AM
IO simply am astounded at the arrogance of these foolish men. What about the 1000's of us who use seeds as foods (sprouts)? How can we know that they are not GMO? Who tests/certifies them? and how often? Every harvest?

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