GE Alfalfa’s Devastating Environmental Impact Statement—and USDA Still Wants to Deregulate!

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AlfalfaThe USDA is ready to deregulate GE alfalfa, even though the EIS raises grave concerns. There’s still time to stop it—if we act quickly!

In April 2004, Monsanto and Forage Genetics International (FGI) requested non-regulated status of their GE alfalfa, genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides containing glyphosate (including Monstanto’s Roundup®). The USDA granted their request. However, as we reported last June, the courts intervened and ordered the USDA to first conduct an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS.

This EIS was completed on December 16, 2010. The report considers three alternatives for GE Alfalfa: regulation, partial deregulation, and no regulation, and strongly recommends the latter two alternatives.

There is now a short period for public comment and review—until January 24th—which means we have a small window of opportunity to take action. After this, the USDA will choose one of the three alternatives.

The USDA’s concluding recommendations are not surprising given that the USDA was ready to grant deregulated status before the court intervened. They show the USDA’s strong bias, and that there is no oversight in the EIS process.

Monsanto and FGI are against regulating GE alfalfa because, they claim, it would greatly diminish production. This would cut into the huge profits from producing the GE version of alfalfa—which in its original form has for decades been used by farmers as livestock feed because of its high protein and low fiber content. Alfalfa ranks fourth on the list of the most widely grown crops, and is ranked third among agricultural crops in terms of value.

Monsanto needs this genetically engineered alfalfa mainly because several of its products contain glyphosate, which would be toxic to non-GE plants.

The facts are shocking and irrefutable. All of the quoted passages below are from the USDA’s just-completed Environmental Impact Statement, available for viewing on the USDA website:

  • Genetically engineered alfalfa will increase the use of herbicides containing the deadly toxin glyphosate: “The net effect on alfalfa production with the increased adoption and planting of GT [glyphosate-tolerant] alfalfa will likely be some increased use of the glyphosate with a decreased, an unchanged, or an increased use of herbicides.” (p. vii)
  • Glyphosate is highly toxic to plants and could affect plants close to the GE alfalfa: “Glyphosate exposure could occur through aerial drift, runoff of surface waters containing glyphosate, or leaching of glyphosate into drainage systems. Plants exposed to glyphosate via aerial drift might experience impaired germination or growth characteristics.” (p. vi)
  • As a “non-selective” herbicide, glyphosate kills almost all plant species when enough of it is applied (p. 3) and glyphosate is currently used to remove entire alfalfa fields (p. vii)
  • The only safeguard against misuse/overuse of glyphosate on the GE alfalfa are the labeled directions on the herbicide: “EPA has determined that there is no unreasonable environmental risk if the user adheres to the labeled directions.” (p. vi)
  • If the USDA confers non-regulated status, it would no longer require permits or notification of the introduction of the GE alfalfa (p. 10). Therefore there will be no oversight on the production or the long-term environmental impacts of GE alfalfa.
  • If GE alfalfa is unregulated, there is the risk on contamination with non GE crops: “Although the probability is low, GT alfalfa genes could be found in non-GT alfalfa at low levels. (p. v).
  • While the EIS states that there are no adverse effects of GE alfalfa on plants or humans, it recognizes that “unexpected and unintended compositional changes arise with all forms of genetic modification, including both conventional breeding and genetic engineering.” (p. 74) Furthermore, the report bases its safety data regarding allergenicity and toxicity on similar genetically engineered crops—but there is no evidence on the long-term allergenicity and toxicity impact of specifically GE alfalfa on humans and animals. (p. 175)

If the USDA deregulates GE alfalfa, it would set a dangerous precedent: the USDA is set to complete an Environmental Impact Statement on Roundup® Ready sugar beets. Since the issues involved are almost identical, the outcomes would likely be the same as well. Monsanto, the largest agribusiness company in the world, will rake in billions of dollars, at the expense of everyone’s health.

Remember, all public comment must be received by January 24 at the latest, so please take action now!

TO SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO THE USDA

Click THIS LINK to go to the Action Alert page. Once there, fill out the form with your name and address, etc., and customize your letter. We have a suggested message for you, but please feel free to add your own comments to the letter.

We’d also love to hear your comments about this article—just add your thoughts below—but remember that the messages below are seen only by our ANH-USA readers and not the USDA.

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  • jim adams

    I’m now old enough to remember days gone by when USDA was eager to help small farmers (like me) do the best they could. Today, if feels like USDA doesn’t give a damn about small farmers, as long as we jump thru the regulatory hoops suggested for us by large corporations. These regulations are “suggested” by large corporations like Monsanto to USDA directly or are channeled thru Congress (like bar codes for animals — barely excepted in the last moments before becoming the Agricultural Law of the Land). I’m almost ready to see USDA go the way of HUD.

    In other words: USDA — i’m a small farmer, and i’m deeply disappointed in you. You sold us out. And this GE alfalfa is just one more example. For shame.

    • FarmBoy

      I am old enough to remember being hungry. So. . I am all for progress in making sure we have an adequate supply of food and feed.
      USDA has done a great job. There was a very thorough scientific review demonstrating there would be no harmful effects and the product was deregulated (2005 I think). Subsequent to that, a small group of organic and common alfalfa growers petitioned a liberal judge and convinced him that USDA had not done a thorough enough job. So an EIS was then called for. Guess what – the product still does not pose any undue risk. Keep in mind this is based on science not claims, fear and innuendo.
      I feel sorry for organizations like Forage Genetics and Monsanto who are trying to make improvements and make this a better world. It is too bad, that the unfounded claims of a few cause additional time and expense in gaining approvals.
      if you had to get USDA, FDA, and EPA approval for the products you make, could you do it and would they pass????
      Lastly, I am shocked by the bold type assertions and misinformation this article attempts to portray. Fore example, the EIS does not call glyphosate a toxic poision. My reading of the EIS left me with a totally different impression. First, there are a number of benefits that this article chooses to ignore, and second, the language is straight forward without the bias implied here.

      • Peter

        You, sir, are unfortunately misled.

        I too am old enough to remember being hungry. But I’m young enough to remember the many studies that have been done (including by the U.N.) that show how our current unsustainable agricultural practices (involving ridiculous amounts of chemicals and irresponsible land use) CANNOT feed the earth at its current rate of population growth! Only sustainable agriculture practices will both provide sufficient yield/acre to feed the planet, and keep the planet from becoming even more of a toxic wasteland. And I am well aware that since the 1950’s, pesticide use has increased 3000%, yet crop loss due to pests has increased 20%. Insects and weeds regenerate many, many times during the relatively long lifetime of a human. They evolve to resist these things, while we cannot evolve to resist their effects in our drinking water and food.
        I’m sick of people claiming that in order to feed the world, we must submit to these huge companies spraying large amounts of chemicals, disrupting the DNA that God masterfully designed for us, and destroying soil, water, and air everywhere.

      • Christopher

        Dear Farmboy,

        While I sympathize with your faith in the FDA and other governmental entities who are in charge of regulating agriculture and food I believe your trust and sympathy is misplaced.
        You said:

        “I feel sorry for organizations like Forage Genetics and Monsanto who are trying to make improvements and make this a better world. It is too bad, that the unfounded claims of a few cause additional time and expense in gaining approvals.”

        You do understand that both of these companies are worth billions, don’t you? You are aware that many of their top lawyers and executives from past decades work for the FDA, aren’t you? And aren’t you also aware that they made an alfalfa resistant to their particular patented weed killer, right? If you put that all together it seems extremely naive of you to feel that Monsanto is trying to save the planet from starvation. They are trying to become rich by cornering a market. People’s fears though potentially not yet proved true are well founded enough in the way in which Monsanto serves money and power. One does not go about saving the planet from starvation by eliminating the competition. One eliminates competition to create an empire. You really should look into what they did with GMO corn in this country. Check out the video, Food, Inc. to start with and then do your own research into their competitors in that industry and see who’s left.

      • Mercy me! Where did you find your facts that you are sorry for Monsanto. Have you done your research or have you simply accepted as truth the spin ( press releases) of Monsanto? Roundup ready rice devastated the Indian farmers. They were told they would have more rice and they just had to buy the pesticide, Roundup. Time proved they had less crops and went broke paying for the extra chemicals. Many committed suicide because they had been ensnared by the Monsanto giant. GLysophate is a toxic poison or it could not kill bugs. However there are worse poisons, like imidacloprid of the neonicotinoid family put out by Bayer Crop Science. Imidacloprid kills every bug known to man except for nematodes and spider mites.
        Do your reasearch and you will be sickened when you learn what has really happened to agriculture since the 1970’s when this new supposed miracle of genetically modified organisms were first created.
        Have you wondered why autism was only 1 in 10,000 in 1972 and is at an alarming 1 in 110 now? Have you asked yourself why the bees are disappearing, why 90% of the bats in New York State are dead in the last 2 years and are dying all over the country, why dead birds are falling out of the sky in southern states right now? We are in an agricultural, earth disaster of horrific scale and you think mankind has not been responsible?
        I hope you have an open mind so you can truly comprehend how odd your statements above are to those common citizens, like myself, who have taken the time investigate scientific articles worldwide.

        • Well said sharlyn, well said. People need to do their research. It’s very scary stuff.

      • Wow! I’m so sorry my friend, but Monsanto’s so-called facts are NOT based on science, They are based on twisted truths and flat out lies; true scientists know this. David Suzuki even said that scientists who profess that GMOs are safe are either lying or they are lacking knowledge and intelligence. GE crops are indeed harmful. They are very, very harmful. The Roundup Ready crops, like the alfalfa one, are especially harmful. Glyphosate kills more than just weeds. There are farmers who lost their farms because their livestock won’t reproduce. There is a 1 in 4 miscarriage rate in this country. Glyphosate causes embryonic death. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I highly doubt it. Did I mention CCD? No one can understand why we are losing all of our honey bees. In all the articles that I’ve read about what is being done about CCD, NOT ONE mentioned investigating GMOs. BT GMOs kill small organisms! Why not bees? In some parts of the world they have to hand pollinate trees because they have no more bees. Bees give a free service that we would never be able to pay for. They do it of their own free will and now they are dropping dead all over the country and in several parts of the world.

        If there is a battle against Monsanto, they started it by lying, cheating and because of the countless people who were made to suffer and/ or die because of their lust for money, their malicious disregard for others and corrupted political aggression against anyone who competes with them. Monsanto isn’t a company that concerns themselves with ethics when losing money is concerned. Their history alone tells us this. They’ve lied about dioxin, they’ve lied about DDT, they’ve lied about Agent Orange, they lied about Roundup Ready being biodegradable back in the 80s, they lied about PCBs and now they are lying their billion dollar pants off about GMOs. They were sued in France for their deception, they were sued here for their deception and now thousands and thousands of farmers in several countries including the US, Canada and India are suing them for their criminal deceptiveness and for their cheating.

        I’m so sorry my friend, but if you feel sorry for Monsanto then you couldn’t POSSIBLY know what Monsanto is. They are not trying to save the world from hunger because in many ways they are causing world hunger. How many small farmers in India killed themselves because they couldn’t afford the cotton crops that were imposed on them? What do you think happens to the families of those farmers? Well, they go hungry of course. Cotton seeds were once 7 rupees per kilo in India. Thanks to GMO seeds cotton seed is now 17,000 rupees per kilo and that doesn’t include the pesticides that they need to buy in order to keep the crop alive. Pesticides? For a BT crop? BT crops are suppose to have pesticides built right in! So I guess they lied about that too. Does this sound like a company that is trying to save the world? A company that sells out small farmers like this?

        I beg you to look at Monsanto’s history and to look at all of the political rigmarole that is put forth to protect their best interest. It isn’t about protecting the consumer or the farmer or saving the world nor was it ever about protecting us or saving the world. Their primary goals are to own all seeds, get rich and control the world.

    • The USDA was once on our side, that’s WHY it was invaded by Monsanto. We need to keep their people OUT!!

  • sue

    Yikes are you kidding–I own horses–the grasses are already effected please please please do not fuss with alfalfa. Please reconsider.

  • Theresa AuCoin

    Hello. Is there a movie / film that shows the horrors of GE plants, etc.?

    Theresa

    • Diane

      Go to the Webste “Institute for Responsible Technology.” Very informative, lots of reading and education there on GMOs and NON-GMOs. Also has an updated shopping list of NON-GMO foods.

    • TRUTHANDLIGHT

      Food Inc.

    • Cat Schroeder

      The Truth about Food and Food Inc. Are two documentaries that are quite eye opening to these issues with our food supply.

  • Can we reply to the USDA’s findings and comment? Do you have a contact for them?

  • Nancy Jo Cornett

    I almost gave up sending a message to FDA because when I went to the page I didn’t see anything. When I finally scrolled down I saw what I was looking for. There is too much space there, and I’m afraid people will give up without scrollilng down. Thanks.

  • I feel that GE alfalfa we don’t need Big Agri-business like Monsanto to run our health thi is so
    awful of the FDA to let Big-business run our life. It is sad that the FDA not controlling their
    office. So it is a no no don’t let the FDA control the way our fields are work. We don’t want no
    controll over te fields tell Monsanto no to our business.

  • I guess everyone know that we are spitting into the wind and that the USDA could care less about the health of the enviroment and only cares about the millions of dollars that monsanto will hand over to them, The EPA and the US Government… all Government agencys and the US government Iitself are involved in a global conspiracy to Kill of 90% of the population and there is Nothing Short of a meteor hitting the earth that is going to stop them… You may as well bend iver and kiss You and Yours Goodbye…

  • Eileen Lemay

    NO MORE GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD PRODUCTS…PERIOD!!!!!!!

    What we need is MORE regulation of the CORPORATE BANDITS….NOT LESS.

    As an advanced, civilized Nation, it amazes me that we continue to poison and harm our citizens and our environment to support the greed of Big Corporate. The FDA has become the whore of these villains. Whether it be GE and their alfalfa profits or any other large food corporation, we want them stopped….they will never do the right thing on their own.

    Just who is being paid off? It’s the old story…follow the money.

  • Nigeala Nigrath

    I tried to send another msg re the GE alfalfa, which had to conform to a certain form. The cut and paste did not work, and getting two different windows to line up properly so you can copy and paste from one to the other turned out to be extremely awkward and frustrating.Life is too short. If you want people to spend their time sending msgs in support of your issues, you need to make the process as stramlined and simple as possible. If you can fix this, I’ll be happy to try again. Thank you.

    • Unfortunately the need for some respondents to copy and paste the message into a separate form occurs when your representative does not accept emails unless they come through his/her webform. We do not have control over this, but we find it very discouraging when elected officials restrict their constituents’ ability to contact them in this way.

      • D. J. Sadler

        That happens when minds are made up and don’t want to be confused by facts

        D. J. Sadler

        PS: read Milk, The Deadly Poison, by Robert Cohen, if you want a real insight on what a national disaster Monsanto is to this country’s health, all in the name of huge profits.

        D. J.

  • dc

    This is INSANE. I rescue burros and we have horses WHY would I want to feed them CRAP!!!!!!!!!

    This is just another deceitful way the BIG AMERICAN corps are SCREWING EVERYONE!!!!

    World depopulation …….. YOU THINK so !!!

  • Trailkat

    I just tried to copy and paste message via the link. Unfortunately, text is being deleted; not all of the message is getting through. Above where comments are entered is the phrase “Extra text will be truncated”. About the last third of the comment is deleted. Thought you guys should know this – makes it hard to get the message across. Also, the form requires you to put in the submitters representative – is that our Congressional representative or Senator? Along with asking Government agency type and Government agency. Not sure what the form is asking for.

    • Thanks for alerting us to this issue. We have decided to collect your comments and deliver them by hand ourselves so the full message can get through.

  • Karen Zelinsky Kite

    I agree with everyone else writing you from this website: Big Business: Big Money: Big Profits: No Regulation – that’s Monsanto’s and seemingly the FDA

  • DAVID AARON

    MONSANTO the MONSTER of “FRANKIN-FOODS” needs to get off this planet!!! NOW!!
    MONSANTO=CANCER OF PLANET EARTH!
    SHAME ON MONSANTO and ANY & ALL SUPPORTERS/SHILLS!!

    D. Aaron, family & associates

  • Heidi

    I don’t want my horses eating this GE alfalfa!!!!!!! It is poison@@@!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • N y

    This is really insane. Mankind has almost ruined everything they touch. Leave it the way God Almighty intended it to be. I believe He knew just what He was doing. Do we humans think we are smarter than He? Just look at our world and the mess it’s in. Leave it alone.

  • S. K.

    I tried to send comment through your link but was directed to another web link for comment, which only accepts up to 2000 characters! Your message was much longer and would need to be radically truncated.

  • I agree with everything you had in your ‘cafeteria’ here but it quit responding to my filled in petitions: It said fields were not filled in that were. So I had to give up. What a shame.

  • Steve M.

    It is obvious that our governmental agencies that are supposed to protect us via regulation is actually run by the big-Agra and big-Pharma corporations, so pleading for sanity is maybe the correct procedural thing to do, but likely will fall on deaf ears.

    However, all is not lost. The one thing they have no control over is how we vote in the marketplace. Refuse to purchase products containing genetically modified crops. With consumer demand, it will then actually become a liability for manufacturers to carry such products, and they will demand alternatives so that they can stay in business. That is how GMOs got banned in Europe, despite political leaders literally planning retaliatory measures.

    To learn how to avoid buying GM products, visit http://www.seedsofdeception.com and also http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com. Jeffrey Smith is leading the way to empower us consumers. As he points out, it will only require about 5% of the population to demand non-GMO foods to cause an industry instituted ban on GMOs. Vote with your dollars; that’s the only thing that counts!

  • FarmBoy

    What an interesting and uninformed chain of comments.

  • Travis

    FarmBoy is clearly a shill. I have relatives from military backgrounds who worked in Propaganda and Psy-Ops (Operational Intelligence) and I worked in advertising for years. There’s a distinctive flavor to FarmBoy’s responses, and he’s CLEARLY A SHILL. But you all knew that. FarmBoy, you’ve been spotted, time to leave.

    This is the point where (as above) the ad hominems get cranked up, and everyone else is called an uninformed, uncaring ignoramus (“We…er, I mean *they* at Monsanto have rescued the world from starvation. Why, only yesterday it seems people all over the world were dying and needed bigger crops, and who did God send, but Monsanto! Thank you Monsanto for saving us from stupid organic farmers and higher yields due to proper stewardship of the land and human-effort-required farming. Once I started spraying Round-Up on all my crops, I saw starvation around me end, my yields went up 47%, and my ponies started frolicking with gratitude everytime the overspray from the Round Up spilled over into their corral! I could almost hear them thanking me for that Monsanto Alfalfa – it’s the best!)

    Either that, or more personal insults in stead of rational arguments, much last his last comment. Shill. Hitting “ignore”…

    No GMO. Not in our food supply, nor in our animals’. Not without at least a decade or two or three of testing. This is the future of agricultural life on this continent and this planet, there’s no compelling reason to rush to decisions which can’t easily (if at all) be undone if and when somethig goes wrong…

  • izeta

    Years ago, henry kissenger speaking for the controlling powers stated when the food, the money, the media, the health and the energy is controlled then you control it all. The overview of Intelligence analysts that have spoken is one of mass enslavement of the remainders of civilization unless change comes. The beginnings of this power grab can be traced backed to the brakeup of Nazi Germany and the fight for the possession of all of the mind power and secret science that would fall to the Russians if not garnered by the U.S.. This story is out there and not all of it secret. This is a karmic and causal relationship. Ask present day Germans for their perspective. They have learned and have responded to their past collective national transgressions. They have a perspective that has been kept hidden from the general U.S. populace.
    Power of the sort that Monsanto wants and the FDA wants to give them is very dangerous because of the damage which can be delivered to the soils of the world simply by overdrift. See wikileaks and the lobbying by our State department to European countries on Monsanto’s behalf(GE ad frankenfoods). This is a blatant miscarriage of social justice. In reductionist language this would be considered terrorist if coming from the outside into this country. When there is a valid and present opportunity to speak truth to power and have the conversation in the public domain and not filtered in biased media then perhaps positive change can occur. Until there is someway to unite the many in truth and understanding so that all benefit and not just the few, then money will have its way. One parting thought…..If all the gold (large) holdings and gold movement for the past 50 years could be mapped, then a power construct would be revealed which would lead to an understanding of the present world situation. Until then the view will continue be the one from walking the around the elephant and partial viewpoints. No solutions in sight until one has an elevated viewpoint and sees the whole thing. The public is continually distracted and misdirected. Propaganda and Psyops are the behind the scenes spin and shaping of every political moment, thus the secret state and the war on terror and drugs and food and the world ‘s resources.

  • Why don’t we just deregulate everything. All big corps and our own Government care about is making a buck.

  • Holly M

    It sad that these laws are implemented without the publics FULL knowledge. These laws are only going to hurt small farmers. what happened to equal rights?wheres our government intention.