Controversies with Calamitous Consequences

Today is the last day to give feedback to the USDA about an issue that many people, including experts, believe could have disastrous effects on US and global agriculture.  The USDA and Secretary Vilsack, in collaboration with Monsanto, are about to lift a court-ordered ban on Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) “Roundup Ready” alfalfa.   Information on why this is important, and how to give feedback is below.

(Even if “today” is gone; please keep reading to understand this situation better.)

There are actually two issues here.  One is that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are potentially very dangerous, and the dangers, while controversial, are not yet well enough understood to ignore.  The second issue is that Monsanto is another example of a corporation that is simply too powerful to fail.   How much power should a single corporate entity have?   In Monsanto’s case, the company controls patents on seeds that are currently responsible for 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn grown in the U.S.  They also control patents on many other seeds that farmers can’t simply reproduce and replant, but instead they have to essentially pay royalties in perpetuity to Monsanto.

Like Climate Change, GMOs are controversial, and like Climate Change, if those who see huge dangers looming are correct, and if those who deny those dangers prevail, the dangers can not only be disastrous, but practically irreversible.

Undoubtedly many proponents for the dangers of Climate Change may not agree that GMOs are a danger, and vice versa.   However, there is at least one thing all groups should be able to agree on:  If there is significant evidence that consequences of doing nothing can be not only disastrous, but irreversible, then doing nothing – which means letting corporate and other narrow interests stay on course – should not be an option in intelligent, life-loving societies.

So, regardless of your current position on GMOs, please consider this to be a serious enough issue to put the brakes on Monsanto’s plans until more is known about the consequences.

Here is some background on the issues at stake.

As described in this recent Washington Post article, Monsanto has developed genetically modified seeds that ‘help’ farmers by making Roundup herbicide (which Monsanto also owns) easier and more effective to use, and thus giving farmer’s bigger crop yields.   Unfortunately for the farmers, Monsanto has also been regularly raising seed prices and that has been cutting into farmers’ profit margins.  But currently most farmers feel that for economic reasons they have to continue buying from Monsanto.  Now Monsanto is pushing on the USDA to overturn court-ordered bans on Roundup Ready Alfalfa.  Some of the reasons that alfalfa is so important are given below and more in the links.

Here are excerpts from a molecular biologist, John Fagan, who has spent more than two decades researching use of recombinant DNA techniques.  Much of his research has been funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the National Cancer Institute.

“Genetically engineered alfalfa would be the first perennial GM crop, and would result in a huge increase of toxic RoundUp in the environment. It would expose livestock widely to both genetically engineered genes and pesticide residues. It would especially affect cows and horses–their health, their reproduction, and their byproducts, particularly milk.”

“Alfalfa pollen is carried far and wide by the wind and bees, so the presence of GM alfalfa in the environment would contaminate organic alfalfa, rendering organic dairy impossible. Consumers who eat alfalfa sprouts would be exposed directly, as well as those who eat meat.

“Despite past positive trends, this is the most serious GMO threat yet, as it creates the legal precedent at the Supreme Court level, for GMO contamination to be acceptable for any crop, with the support of the USDA.”

[UpdateMore than 200,000 NGOs, farmers, consumers and organic producers call on USDA to prohibit genetically engineered alfafa. March 3, 2010]

Here are links for learning more and to take action (by March 3)– e.g. ,by providing feedback to the USDA.

Providing feedback can take less than 3 minutes.

1. Get informed and take action:

http://capwiz.com/grassrootsnetroots/issues/alert/?alertid=14469696

This takes you to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) where you can send the OCA email letter as feedback by clicking “take action now.”

2. Submit comments directly to the USDA at:

http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#submitComment?R=0900006480a6b7a1

You can write your own comments, or copy and paste from the letter found at the OCA link above.

Thank you!

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