According to legend, you can only make hay while the sun shines. But – according to Monsanto – you can only grow hay, namely alfalfa, successfully, by genetically altering alfalfa to include the herbicide glyphosate (also known as Roundup). Glyphosate kills weeds. Farmers hate weeds. Genetically modified Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RR Alfalfa) was approved for planting by the USDA on January 27, 2011.
Modern genetic modification (GM) of plants is radically different than your grandmother saving seeds from her highest yielding tomato plant. GM is a complete departure from traditional hybridization, which involved crossing plants to change a recessive gene to a desirable, dominate gene.
Genetic modification means you inject, infect, or dissect genetic material from different organisms. Gene-splicing, genetic engineering (GE), biotechnology, recombinant DNA, genetically modified – all these terms mean that you are combining genes to form a new organism that does not occur naturally. A virus gene (cauliflower mosaic) was used to genetically insert Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide traits into alfalfa plants. Some genetic modifications to corn produce species with the pesticides already inside the sweet, juicy kernel.
Long term effects of consuming or planting genetically modified corn, soy, canola, cotton and most recently, alfalfa and sugar beets, are unknown by scientists. Short term effects of planting GM crops include: genetic drift from GM crops, which contaminates non-genetically modified seed; overuse of the herbicide glyphosate (there has been a 5 fold application increase since Roundup was introduced) has promoted the growth of “superweeds”, weeds resistant to common herbicides (removal of the superweeds now requires a more toxic chemical approach); and, since GM crops do not help build the soil, they require more water and cause more soil erosion.
According to the Organic Consumers Association, “…the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, 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.”
FDA scientists have warned consumers that GM foods can contain toxins and cause allergies, diseases and nutritional problems. Based on this research, 87% of American consumers want GM foods labeled and 53% said they would not eat food that has been genetically modified. In Europe, all GM foods must be clearly labeled.
The USDA claims that they must work hard to protect and conserve natural resources and provide a safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply for the American people. Since the USDA’s work affects every American every day, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s “proud” motto is “Every Way, Every Day”.
After the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready Alfalfa was released, over 200,000 Americans expressed concerns about genetically modified alfalfa to the USDA. In the face of all of these “every day” Americans, Tom Vilsack deregulated RR Alfalfa.
Vilsack has been accused of turning his back on consumers, conservationists and farmers – particularly sustainable seed suppliers, organic dairy farmers and growers of grass-fed beef. A handful of biotech companies won. They practically got a hug. And they will continue to win – “every way, every day”.
What about Pennsylvania’s Wallace Homestead Farm, producers of Certified Naturally Grown grass-fed beef? Mish Meats, located in Gibsonia, PA feeds their grass-fed cows hay while finishing them. And the countless, local free-range egg and poultry providers such as Harvest Valley Farms. Who will want to eat Roundup Ready eggs?
The USDA approved RR Alfalfa just in time for spring planting and there is about 1.5 million pounds of Roundup Ready seed available for sale. At an estimated $6.50/lb, (a price that includes biotechnology fees), that’s $9,750,000 for Monsanto and the other genetic and seed companies licensed to sell RR Alfalfa.
Due to contamination from genetic drift, GM free alfalfa seeds could cease to exist. Consequently, there will no longer be a market for organic milk, organic grass fed beef or organic alfalfa – which is also fed to horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys and a variety of household pets. Millions of years of evolutionary genetic diversity will be forever lost in a blink of the history of life. All we will become is genetically modified dust in the wind.