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Anti-biotech forces call on President Obama to overturn USDA on GM alfalfa

January 29, 2011

Biotech critics and organic activists began contacting their congressmen Friday in reaction to USDA’s decision Thursday to completely deregulate RoundUp Ready Alfalfa plantings this spring.

Food and Water Watch put out an action alert to its members urging that they contact President Obama and request that he overrule Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The USDA has approved Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically engineered alfalfa. This is the wrong decision and will likely lead to wide spread contamination of other crops, including organic alfalfa. You have the power to stop this.  I urge you to reject the USDA’s approval of genetically engineered alfalfa.

 In a statement Thursday, Secretary Vilsack said USDA scientists concluded after a court-ordered environmental impact statement and a “thorough and transparent examination” with multiple comment periods,  GM alfalfa poses no plant pest risk. 

Tom Phillpott, food writer for the environmental website Grist, described USDA’s decision as a “stunning reversal” because it appeared like Vilsack was leaning toward imposing planting restrictions on GM alfalfa.  

Thursday’s announcement marks 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.

Philpott claims GM alfalfa is prolific pollinator capable of cross breeding with organic alfalfa and will drive organic alfalfa and milk producers out of business.   

Admittedly, the Secretary Vilsack’s tone earlier this month at the AFBF meeting in Atlanta sounded like someone who had accepted the need for co-existence and not full deregulation.  Last Friday, before he ran into uniform strong opposition at the House Agriculture Committee hearing, full deregulation did not seem to be in the cards

USDA made the correct decision.   Food and Water Watch’s action request should be dismissed.

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