Good news: USDA chief Vilsack backtracks on GM alfalfa

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While radical environmentalists were commencing a new battle with the EPA, they were losing a round in an important fight with the USDA. Working in tandem with organic farmers, they had previously succeeded in getting USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to say that he was considering limitations on the planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa plants. Dispatch readers may recall that in December Vilsack suggested that growers of GM alfalfa might be required to put special fencing around their fields to prevent their seeds from blowing into the fields of organic alfalfa farmers. The latter group feared that their crops would be priced lower if they could not assure buyers that their produce was free from any “contamination” by GM seeds.

If these policies had been adopted, they would have created a precedent by which the USDA could assert ever more stringent regulations to limit the growing of GM crops. Such policies might also have had a disastrous influence on the attitudes and thus the behavior of poorer nations who might be considering planting GM crops. Many of these countries are in dire need of the larger harvests which GM crops can make possible, yet they fear the economic repercussions of planting crops considered “frankenfood” in many EU countries.

Thankfully though, Vilsack reversed himself and agreed to allow unlimited growing of the GM alfalfa, which is distinguishable from other alfalfa in that it has been genetically engineered to more easily adapt to spraying of the widely-used pesticide Round-Up.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross says, “We believe GM crops are the wave of the future, and this is a very positive decision.”

Perhaps inevitably, the Center for Food Safety announced that it would appeal the Secretary’s decision.