why i called the white house: the alfalfa crisis
ICALLED THE WHITE HOUSE Friday to register my horror about the USDA’s decision to allow genetically engineered, or so-called Roundup-ready, alfalfa to be planted without restriction, threatening the purity of the organic food supply. I hope you will call or write, too. The comment line is (202) 456-1111, or you can simply fill in the White House contact form. If you don’t know how you feel about the issue, some links that may further inform (or inflame) you:
The biotech alfalfa seed is a product of Monsanto, the people who brought you saccharine (the company’s first product, in 1901) and synthetic bovine growth hormone to increase dairy-cow milk production (perhaps you recall the uproar, after its 1994 approval), and a series of other genetically engineered seed crops, including ones for cotton, soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets (and now alfalfa).
Genetically modified corn and soy have already been found to have cross-contaminated non-GMO crops, as has canola–and scientists say contamination could be worse with alfalfa, because it’s a perennial, not an annual like the others. Bees apparently move its pollen up to 5 miles, so an organic alfalfa field near one grown from engineered seed risks contamination.
Why care? Can’t you just shop organic and choose to be “safe” from GMOs? If organic alfalfa seed fields are contaminated by the engineered crops, organic beef and dairy cows and other animals from which we derive meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, who are often fed alfalfa, would have ingested it–meaning they are no longer being raised organically, nor GMO-free.
Some highlights (lowlights?) I urge you to read before you call or write the White House:
- What Rodale News (“Organic Gardening,” “Prevention,” etc.) thinks about all this; a good overview, including steps consumers can take to join the outcry.
- What SafeLawns thinks (nonprofit organic advocates), including a terrifying staff list of the current USDA, which reads like the former employee directory of Monsanto and Dupont.
- The Center for Food Safety‘s take, including how spraying may increase sharply with Roundup-ready crops (meaning more chemicals than ever being used), and the fear that “superweeds” will develop as plants get used to all that chemical application.
- Former “Gourmet” writer Barry Estabrook’s take, from his blog Politics of the Plate.