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On USDA's Decision On Genetically Engineered Alfalfa - Comments from Rep. Leahy and Rep. DeFazio

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on January 27, 2011 - 12:23pm

As the organic and sustainable agriculture community lets out a collective gasp, Representatives Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), offer their response to the USDA's decision to fully deregulate genetically modified (GMO) alfalfa in a press release:

"This long approval process began as a search for a workable compromise, but it has ended as a surrender to business as usual for the biotech industry. USDA officials had an opportunity to address the concerns of all farmers, whether they choose to farm genetically altered crops, conventional crops, or organic crops, and to find a way for them to coexist. Instead, what we now have is a setback for the nation's organic and conventional agriculture sectors. Instead of settling this issue, USDA's decision regrettably guarantees further rounds in the courts.

"This is a big payday for the giant firms that pushed for this rollback. Unfortunately, consumers and hardworking farmers who choose not to use these genetically engineered crops will be handed the tab. Organic feed already is expensive and in short supply. This will compound that problem while creating many more. *

"America's biotech industry and organic agriculture can coexist and thrive, but only if there are clear rules to referee their conflicting needs and interests."

*(emphasis ours)

Farmers and citizens across the US recognize this decision as an assault on our democratic rights to grow and eat food of our choice. Retailers such as Whole Foods and companies such as Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farms are put at a great disadvantage as the very fabric of the organic label is now threatened with certain doom due to inevitable contamination of the organic alfalfa crop, a forage that organic dairy farmers rely upon for certfication.

While Leahy and DeFazio's statement of coexistence is in conflict with the goals of Food Democracy Now!, it is important for all in the organic and sustainable ag communities to recognize before criticizing organic companies for their advocacy of Vilsack's coexistence plan that it was one of two options presented as viable to organic farmers: coexistence or full deregulation. Of these two dismal options, certainly coexistence would be the better of the two.

Assertions that organic companies that support thousands of our nation's organic farmers preferred a plan for coexistence are false and is the belief of Food Democracy Now! that these accusations only serve to divide our community, a move welcome by those forces welcoming and benefiting from such a division of thought and advocacy.

Food Democracy Now! recognizes the USDA decision to fully deregulate genetically modified alfalfa is an opprtunity and a mandate for the organic and sustainable ag communities to join together in support toward the common goal of a reversal of this decision that is now widely recognized as not coming from the USDA in origination, but from the White House itself.

Indeed, David Axelrod in an interview with Maureen Dowd on his day of farewell form the While House, throws out an odd remark stating, "

SOURCE Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy

Source: PR Newswire

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