WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its decision to grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup.
“After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
After releasing a final EIS in December 2010, USDA took another step to ensure that this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered (GE), organic, and other non-GE stakeholders. The stakeholders helped to identify areas of consensus; issues where the group disagreed and opportunities for further dialogue exist; and areas where USDA could – or should – play an important and helpful role.
In response to the request for support from its stakeholders, USDA is taking a number of steps, including:
• Reestablishing two important USDA advisory committees – Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, and the National Genetic Resources Advisory Committee. These two committees will tackle a broad range of issues, from ensuring the availability of high quality seed, to helping ensure that growers have access to the best tools available to support their production choices, to whether risk management and indemnification options can play a role;
• Conducting research into areas such as ensuring the genetic integrity, production and preservation of alfalfa seeds entrusted to the germplasm system;
• Refining and extending current models of gene flow in alfalfa;
• Requesting proposals through the Small Business Innovation Research program to improve handling of forage seeds and detection of transgenes in alfalfa seeds and hay; and,
• Providing voluntary, third-party audits and verification of industry-led stewardship initiatives.
The National Corn Growers Association is pleased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to issue a full deregulation for glyphosate tolerant alfalfa as published in the Final Environmental Impact Statement this past December.
“We would like to thank Secretary Vilsack for keeping grower choice as a priority. Farmers need access to technology so that they can choose the option that is best for their farm,” said NCGA Chairman Darrin Ihnen, from Hurley, S.D. “Biotechnology can improve a farm’s efficiency and decrease the amount of chemical needed for that crop. We need choice to raise more food, feed, fiber and fuel for the world’s growing needs.”
“This is the right decision,” said Jim Zimmerman, vice chairman of NCGA’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team, a grower from Rosendale, Wis. “A clean, full deregulation is the best decision for producers and lets farmers plant the kind of alfalfa they choose this spring.”