Looks like sustainable aggies and organic consumers aren't the only ones with a close eye on Tom Vilsack these days, watching what he will do on genetically-modified (GMO) alfalfa. Apparently the biotech industry is, too.
According to Phil Brasher of the Des Moines Register:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, once seen as an ally of biotech companies, has now angered the industry with a proposed policy shift in how genetically engineered crops are regulated.
Vilsack's department is considering restrictions on where biotech alfalfa can be grown. The restrictions would protect conventional and organic farmers from having their crops contaminated.
"The implications of moving forward in that direction are huge," said Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, executive vice president of food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "Long term we are looking at upending the U.S. regulatory process, which has implications for investment and research."
This is on the heels on the release of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) ordered by the Ninth District Court of California in response to a lawsuit filed by Geertson Seed and Center for Food Safety concerning the USDA's previously unregulated approval of GMO alfalfa for planting.
The concern among organic growers and consumers are the studies that have demonstrated the contamination of organic alfalfa by Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, which leaves the organic dairy industry in the dust, as "GMO-free" is required for organic certification of dairy products.
Vilsack's proposal since the release of the EIS is co-existence, which the organic industry, consumers and sustainable ag advocates cry "foul" and "udder" nonsense.
He said it is important for all types of farmers to flourish, including those growing non-biotech and organic crops.
He emphasized that he hasn't made a decision on possible planting restrictions for biotech alfalfa and that it was too early to say whether such regulations would be considered for other crops in the future. "All these questions become relevant once I make a decision," he said.
Vilsack could face additional litigation no matter what he does. The biotech industry group may sue the USDA if it implements the alfalfa restrictions, Lauritsen, the biotech group official, said.
Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't... such is political life. Violins, anyone?