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The Green Life: The USDA Approves GM Alfalfa

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January 31, 2011

The USDA Approves GM Alfalfa

Alfalfa tractor In an important decision last week, the USDA decided to allow the planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa, a seed patented by the corporate giant Monsanto. As America's fourth biggest crop and an important forage source for livestock, this decision has big implications for our food system. Wind easily transports alfalfa's pollen, so there will likely be problems of cross-contamination with non-GMO and organic crops.  

The USDA opted for complete deregulation of GM alfalfa, bypassing the option of partial deregulation. The supermarket chain Whole Foods advocated the latter option and expressed their disappointment with the government's decision on their blog.

Genetically modified foods are a major sticking point for many environmentalists, and many question why Whole Foods was supporting USDA approval in any form. Because USDA-certified organic products can't contain GM ingredients, it would be a problem for organically raised cows to start accidentally foraging on GM alfalfa, as their milk could no longer be sold as organic. Plus, most GM crops are engineered to resist pesticides, the chemicals whose widespread use devastates the environment.

--Rosie Spinks

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