January 27, 2011

USDA Won't Impose Restrictions on Monsanto Biotech Alfalfa Crop!!!

The Wall Street Journal
written by Bill Tomson and Scott Kilman
Thursday January 27, 2011

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration Thursday abandoned a proposal to restrict planting of genetically engineered alfalfa, the latest rule-making proposal shelved as part of the administration's review of "burdensome" regulation.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's decision not to regulate alfalfa genetically modified to survive applications of the Monsanto Co. herbicide Roundup is a victory for the big seed and agri-chemicals company and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents farmers, who had opposed the proposed curbs that were proposed about a month ago.

The Obama administration said earlier this month it is reviewing all proposed government regulation to weed out proposals that are overly burdensome to businesses—part of a broader effort to repair relations with employers and industry. The administration has also shelved two proposed workplace-safety rules opposed by business.

The USDA is expected to decide next week whether or not to issue a new approval for genetically modified sugar beets in time for planting this year.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization praised Mr. Vilsack Thursday for opting not to place the first planting restrictions on an approved genetically modified crop.

"We hope this will help pave the way for new technologies in the pipeline," BIO President and Chief Executive Jim Greenwood said.

The USDA's announcement Thursday will allow farmers to begin planting this year's alfalfa crop grown from biotech seeds.

"This is great news for farmers who have been waiting for the green light to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa," said Steve Welker, alfalfa commercial lead at Monsanto. The St. Louis crop biotechnology giant said the USDA decision clears the way for sales of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed to U.S. farmers in time for spring planting.

Alfalfa is raised as hay on about 20 million acres, making it the fourth-biggest U.S. crop by acreage. Only about 250,000 acres of alfalfa is raised organically, however.

Organic farmers had supported the proposal to restrict planting of genetically modified alfalfa.

"A lot of people are shell shocked," said Christine Bushway, chief executive officer of the Organic Trade Association, which represents organic farmers and food makers. "While we feel Secretary Vilsack worked on this issue, which is progress, this decision puts our organic farmers at risk."

Federal organic standards forbid organic farmers from using genetically modified crops. Organic food companies routinely reject ingredients if they detect genetically modified organisms, no matter how small the level, costing farmers the big premiums that organic usually commands over conventionally produced food.

Some biotechnology officials have predicted that U.S. farmers will use genetically modified seeds to grow half of the nation's alfalfa. The vast majority of the nation's corn, soybeans and cotton are grown from genetically modified varieties.

No comments: