According to Agri-Pulse Communications, last week Idaho Representatives Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick were signatories on a letter from 75 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that an interim permit be issued to allow planting Roundup Ready Alfalfa this fall. This just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 2007 injunction which had halted further planting of the genetically modified seed pending completion of an Environmental Impact Study by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Citing a draft finding of "no significant impact on the human environment," the letter requested partial deregulation allowing farmers to plant their inventoried seed while the agency finalizes the impact study.
The letter is a stark contrast to the one Secretary Vilsack received last month from 5o congressman and 6 senators, including Montana Senator Jon Tester, asking the secretary to block the planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa and deny Monsanto's request for partial deregulation. "We believe that [genetically engineered] contamination will occur and it will result in significant economic harm to both the alfalfa seed and forage export markets and to the organic dairy industry," the letter argues and requests that the agency continue to regulate the genetically modified alfalfa seed. More here.
For some great background on Monsanto and Roundup Ready Alfalfa and a fantastic read with a local Nampa connection, check out Matt Jenkins' feature "Brave New Hay: Is Monsanto erasing the line between what is natural and what is not?" published by High Country News in 2007.
Here's a snip:
Alfalfa — the favored fare of dairy cows, beef cattle and health nuts — is an unlikely flash point for the controversy over genetically modified crops. Yet the legal fight over Roundup Ready alfalfa attests to just how far Monsanto’s massive foray into crop genetics has reached — and it is just one piece of a pair of larger, interrelated controversies in which the company is now entangled.
One centers on the environmental impacts of genetically modified crops. Evidence is mounting that such crops, which were introduced after undergoing only cursory review, have led to the appearance of “superweeds” that have themselves mutated to survive Roundup herbicide and threaten to impose new costs on farmers and the environment. And, while the long-term human health implications of those transformed crops are still not understood, there are reports that Monsanto’s proprietary genes have contaminated traditional and organic crops, transforming the very nature of the food we eat.
But Monsanto is also embroiled in a second controversy. The company has intervened not only in the genetic architecture of the nation’s food and feed crops, but in the very business of American farming itself. Monsanto now faces mounting legal challenges from its seed-growing competitors. It appears that the saga of Roundup Ready crops is ultimately less about genetic manipulation than about corporate power. Through a comprehensive scheme of takeovers, acquisitions and alleged strong-arming of competition, Monsanto is building an empire. Along the way, it seems to be erasing the line between what is genetically engineered and what is not.
Is Roundup Ready Alfalfa the agricultural equivalent of the Deep Water Horizon and do the 75 signatories urging its use echo the feverish chants of "drill, baby, drill?" How would Monsanto "un-contaminate" genetically natural seed if so? Or perhaps the better question: Are you willing to risk finding out?