Help Preserve the Future of Organic; Prevent Full Deregulation of GE Alfalfa

On January 24, 2011, the USDA will determine whether to fully deregulate Monsanto's genetically engineered (GE), Roundup Ready alfalfa or to conditionally deregulate it, the latter of which would place restrictions on its production and potentially hold patent holders accountable for harm to organic farmers. Unfortunately, the USDA has made it clear that the continued full regulation - or non-production - of GE alfalfa is not an option, despite consumer outcry and scientific evidence in support of full regulation.USDA is facing a lot of political pressure by big ag on this issue, and we feel the organic community should be heard as loudly as those pushing for full deregulation.

Though alfalfa isn't a common pantry food, the deregulation of GE alfalfa will have widespread effects on organic consumers and farmers alike. Alfalfa is a mainstay food for dairy cows, beef cattle, and honeybees. It is also a crop that spreads and cross-pollinates easily. Consequently, contamination of organic alfalfa or other plants by GE alfalfa presents real risks to organic farmers and consumers. 

We ask that the USDA:

1. Exercise their clear authority to protect all segments of U.S. Agriculture

2. Protect organics by preventing cross contamination of GE alfalfa into organic fields and ensuring organic seed purity for organic and conventional farmers wanting to farm without GE technology

3. Put the responsibility for cross-field alfalfa contamination on GE alfalfa patent holders including compensation for affected farmers

4. Require mandatory labeling of GE foods so consumers can choose to eat or avoid genetically engineered food

5. Be fully transparent; complete and make public ongoing environment, health and socio-economic assessments as they relate to growing an consuming GE food

Sign our petition by January 18 and help protect organic farms and the integrity of organic foods.
I, the undersigned believe:

Deregulating GE alfalfa at all has long term consequences for farmers, the land, the USDA Organic label and consumers seeking to avoid GE products. Any program of co-existence must: 1) ensure the integrity of organics and prevent contamination, 2) assign all costs for co-existence to GE patent holders, 3) require mandatory labeling, and 4) be fully transparent.

I appreciate that USDA, by considering conditional deregulation of GE alfalfa, is acknowledging both the importance of organic agriculture and the necessity to uphold the integrity of organics and ensure consumer trust and confidence in the USDA organic label. I believe in product diversity & sustainability, including regional and local food system development, support for small farms, and reform of subsidies. I support consumers' right to information so they can make informed food choices, including sufficient product labeling.

I have no desire to see GE alfalfa deregulated in any fashion. But given the choice between full deregulation and conditional deregulation, I support a conditional deregulation that supports co-existence, protects the integrity of and consumer trust in the organic seal, appropriately assign all costs of co-existence to patent holders, provides for mandatory labeling so that producers and consumers can make informed purchase decisions, and is fully transparent with respect to the current and future public health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GE.

I urge the USDA to conduct the necessary studies to truly understand the long-term impact of GE alfalfa and other GE crops on the environment and our health, as it will take years if not decades to truly understand its effects on us.
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