USA: Farmers and consumer groups file lawsuit challenging GE alfalfa approval
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
Attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice have filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), arguing that the agency’s recent unrestricted approval of GE “Roundup Ready” Alfalfa was unlawful, the Cornucopia Institute reports. The GE crop is engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup. USDA data show that 93 % of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the USA is grown without the use of any herbicides. With the full deregulation of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year.
This is the second case challenging the legality of USDA’s handling of GE alfalfa. In 2007, in another case brought by CFS, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of the engineered crop violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup. The case resulted in USDA undertaking a court-ordered four-year study of GE alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Remarkably, it marked the first time USDA had ever undertaken such a study, known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in over 15 years of approving GE crops for commercial production. While USDA worked on the EIS, GE alfalfa remained unlawful to plant or sell, a ban that remained in place despite Monsanto appealing the case all the way to the US Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs include a diverse coalition of conventional and organic farmers, dairies and agricultural associations, and environmental and consumer groups: CFS, Beyond Pesticides, The Cornucopia Institute, California Farmers Union, Dakota Resources Council, Geertson Seed Farms, National Family Farm Coalition, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Sierra Club, Trask Family Seeds and Western Organization of Resource Councils. “We in the farm sector are dissatisfied but not surprised at the lack of courage from USDA to prohibit Roundup Ready alfalfa and defend family farmers,” said plaintiff farmer Pat Trask.
Known as the “queen of forages,” alfalfa is the key feedstock for the dairy industry. Organic dairies stand to lose their source of organic feed. The organic sector is the most vibrant part of agriculture in the USA, now a 26 billion dollar a year industry and growing 20 % annually. “Approving the unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa is a blatant case of the USDA serving one form of agriculture at the expense of all others,” says plaintiff Ed Maltby, Executive Director of the Northeast Alliance of Organic Dairy Producers. “If this decision is not remedied, the result will be lost livelihoods for organic dairy farmers, loss of choice for farmers and consumers, and no transparency about GE contamination of our foods.”
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