USDA Will Not Investigate GMO Alfalfa Contamination

Posted September 27, 2013

USDA will not investigate the detection of genetically modified material in a Washington state farmer’s non-GMO alfalfa crop, stating that this is a “commercial issue” and does not warrant any government action, according to a Reuters article available here.

In late August, the Washington state farmer complained to state agriculture officials that his hay had been rejected for export sale due to the presence of a genetically modified (GM) trait which made the crop resistant to herbicide.

Washington agriculture officials notified the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that they confirmed a “low-level” presence of a GM trait in what the farmer thought was a conventional crop.  State officials also stated that the level was “within ranges acceptable to much of the marketplace.”

Alfalfa, a livestock feed crop, is one of the top five crops in the nation in terms of value and total acreage planted.  It is the first perennial biotech crop to be approved by USDA.  Roundup Ready alfalfa has been approved by USDA for commercial sale since January 2011.  The crop was initially approved in 2005, but environmental groups and seed companies sued USDA in 2006, halting the approval until an environmental review was completed.

Opponents of GM alfalfa say that contamination could threaten trade of the crop because many importing countries, including Japan and Saudi Arabia, reject GM materials, according to a Farm Futures article, available here.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture said, “There is a strong market demand for Round-Up Ready alfalfa and conventional alfalfa varieties, including those with low-level presence of Round-Up Ready traits, both domestically and abroad.”

For more information on Biotechnology, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website, here.  A recent report on Agricultural Biotechnology from the Congressional Research Service is available here.