What is genetically engineered alfalfa?



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    Alfalfa, a relative of the pea plant, is fourth largest commodity crop grown in the United States. It is most often harvested as hay for feeding livestock, and its high protein content and superior digestibility make it a top feed choice for dairy cows. What does that have to do with me, you ask?

    In January, the federal government gave farmers the green light to grow genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. Hot on the heels of GE corn and soybeans, which now dominate our national food supply, GE alfalfa threatens to strike another blow at the organic industry. These mega-volume crops have been manipulated by scientists to resist the spraying of glyphosate herbicide (commonly known as Roundup) so that fields can be sprayed en masse, killing any plant that isn’t counted as a “commodity.” In theory, this sounds pretty convenient, but the reality is grim.

    Impact on organic • Like its corn and soy predecessors, GE alfalfa can cross-pollinate non-engineered alfalfa, and this means big trouble for organic farmers. Current organic certification regulations prohibit genetically modified organisms or GMOs from organic products. If livestock are fed alfalfa that has been accidentally cross-pollinated by a nearby GE crop, the resulting meat and milk can no longer be marketed as organic. This means significant financial losses for producers.

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