USDA Fully Deregulates Genetically Modified Alfalfa

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that it would "fully deregulate" the planting of alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to tolerate Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. The USDA based its decision, in part, on a risk assessment that showed that this Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA) posed no harmful effects to human health or the safety of the plant agricultural system. The USDA's decision follows years of agency and judicial proceedings. In June of last year, the Supreme Court, in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, finally cleared the way for the USDA decision to deregulate RRA. In Monsanto, the Court reversed a lower court's injunction prohibiting the USDA from deregulating RRA. Industry advocates such as the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the American Farm Bureau Federation have applauded the USDA's decision. The Organic Trade Association, which represents the organic foods industry, was disappointed that the USDA decided against even a more limited option of deregulating only partially, which would have restricted the use of RRA to limited geographic areas. Organic farmers have been concerned that RRA could cross-pollinate with natural alfalfa, hampering sales in Europe and Japan, where genetically modified food is viewed with more suspicion. Image of an alfalfa field by Flickr user Michelle and Anna, and used under a Creative Commons license.

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