Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa will be granted non-regulated status under a decision USDA announced Thursday. This follows weeks of debate in a host of areas over USDA's potential decision.
"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. "All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they've done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful."
But the decision won't end the legal issues for this matter. The Center for Food Safety has pledged to seek a court order to reverse and void USDA's decision. "We will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment and consumer choice," said the group's Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell.
But others were pleased with the decision, including House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who said in a statement, "Genetically engineered alfalfa has been subjected to an extensive multi-year review and the conclusion has always been the same: it’s safe. A product that has been repeatedly found to be safe should be deregulated. I am pleased that USDA used sound science and respected the limit of its statutory authority to make this decision."
In addition to the non-regulated status for RR alfalfa, USDA announced the following actions as well:
- 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.
Vilsack also said a decision on RR sugarbeets and one on a corn variety for ethanol production would be made soon.
Here's a link to USDA's release.
Here's a link to USDA's Q&As on this decision.