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GM alfalfa slowly invades farmers' fields, threatening livelihoods and the environment


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(NaturalNews) Alfalfa isn't a crop city folks give much thought to and it may seem like it really isn't worth worrying about. In the United States, it is actually the fourth most widely grown crop with wheat, corn and soybeans being the top three. We recognize the great big hay rolls as cheap animal feed when we see them as we drive by open fields.

According to the US Department of Agriculture more than 17 million acres of alfalfa were grown last year, worth an estimated $8 billion.

Alfalfa is actually a crop used to feed dairy cows, cattle, sheep, pigs, honeybees and offers a habitat to many species of birds. So it's actually pretty important in the farming world and in the food chain. But the genetically modified (GM) alfalfa type is bringing about a whole new set of challenges for agriculture and the environment. Adding alfalfa to the available Roundup Ready (RR) products increases Monsanto's death grip on American farmers and creates a nearly non-stoppable dominance over our largest grown food crops.

A recent discovery of genetically modified alfalfa in Western Canada in an area where it has not yet been approved exposes the reality of its growing regardless of "approval". Discovery of the Roundup Ready forage in one Saskatchewan and one Alberta field within the past few years shows that it is difficult, if not impossible, to contain.

Alfalfa can easily spread into the nearby ditches, along the fence lines and easily blow beyond the field edges, regardless of whether it is intended to or not. There are obviously not any walls between each farmer's field separating the non-GM or Roundup Ready version varieties thus allowing easy crossover.

A painful lesson with this issue was learned when a genetically modified canola seed cut the value of Heather Kerschbaumer's timothy seed in half with losses of approximately $20,000. Forage Seed Canada president Heather Kerschbaumer has openly shared her concerns about commercializing Roundup Ready alfalfa in Canada and the very real threats to our exports of forage and forage seed.

"In my opinion I think it would be a devastating blow to the seed industry, especially for our Peace region, because we export so much seed and a lot of it goes into Europe and a lot of it goes to China, some of it goes to Japan - into all these markets where there is a zero tolerance (for GM crops)," Kerschbaumer told reporters at the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association's annual meeting Nov. 17, 2014.

At that same meeting Ed Shaw of the International Quality Forage in Carstairs, Alta. told the attendees that some American hay exporters have already been blacklisted by Chinese importers because of GM contamination.

Brief history of the issue

The USDA announced its approval of Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa way back in June 2005. The genetically engineered version is herbicide-tolerant giving it the ability to survive applications of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. Monsanto produced RR alfalfa in partnership with the largest alfalfa seed company, a Land of Lakes subsidiary called Forage.

AGRA watch expert Phil Bereano voiced his concerns that the deregulating of GE alfalfa was in direct contravention to the USDA's obligations under previous court decisions. A 2007 trial judge had contended that alfalfa farmers had established a "reasonable probability that their conventional alfalfa crops would be contaminated with the engineered Roundup Ready gene if deregulation occurred". Disregarding the strong case against it, genetically engineered Roundup-resistant alfalfa was approved in late 2011.

Toxicology and plant pathology expert Dr. Don Huber also pointed out that once you insert new genes into a perennial insect-pollinated plant like alfalfa, there's no way to prevent cross-fertilization and contamination, and it cannot be eliminated once it's distributed throughout an area.




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