Issue Date: February 7, 2011
USDA Ends Ban On Biotech Alfalfa
USDA will allow unrestricted planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa, a strain genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate. The announcement, made on Jan. 27, comes four years after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered a ban on all new plantings of the crop until USDA completed an environmental impact statement. USDA published its final statement in December 2010, concluding that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as conventional alfalfa. The department first approved the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2005, which led to a 2007 lawsuit by the activist group Center for Food Safety. In the suit, the group argued that USDA failed to analyze the risks of cross-contamination with conventional and organic alfalfa, the possible creation of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and the effects of increased use of glyphosate herbicide. USDA claims it has now addressed those impacts, but EPA says the proposed controls are inadequate to prevent the flow of genes from modified alfalfa to conventional varieties.
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