USDA Allows Genetically Engineered Alfalfa Resistant To Roundup
A short time ago the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it has agreed to allow Forage Genetics International (FGI) to begin commercial planting of its genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa which has been designed to tolerate Monsanto’s herbicide known as Roundup.
This comes as no surprise to the organic community but what is most distressing is that FGI will be allowed to conduct commercial planting of this new GE crop without any federal requirements to prevent the contamination of non GE alfalfa fields.
The impact of this ruling is far reaching to organic farmers across the board. The legislated organic standards prohibit any presence of GE material in organic crops. This makes perfect sense since consumers who demand organic produce have a right to be protected against GE contamination. But yet, federal authorities continue to allow GE crops to proliferate unchecked.
It’s a serious issue and not just for organic farmers. It was found by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that cross pollination between GE and non-GE crops is occurring. This finding opens up the very real possibility that our consumable crops are also being contaminated by pharmaceutical based DNA. What does that mean? For the past decade, big pharmaceutical companies have been genetically modifying plant crops to produce drugs. But as stated earlier, there are no regulations to protect against the possible contamination of non-GE crops by nearby GE crops.
Let me provide a superb example outlined by UCS. Let’s say a big pharma is growing corn with the ability to produce a drug such as a growth hormone. The pollen from this GE crop is carried through the air pollinating nearby non-GE corn destined for human consumption. The farmer of the non-GE corn harvests his seeds some of which are now genetically modified. These seeds are sold to a farmer who then grows the corn for human consumption not knowing that some of the corn is actually GE corn. Some of this GE corn might have the genetic sequence for growth hormone production or might actually have growth hormone in the corn kernels. The consumer then purchases this corn and is unwittingly contaminating themselves and their family with a pharmaceutical drug.
This is a very real possibility yet there are zero regulations in place to protect against this type of contamination.
Monsanto has a market cap of $40 billion and did $10.5 billion in sales in fiscal year 2010. They are big, they are powerful and they have used their power very aggressively against anti-GMO activists.
But the bottom line is organic produce has grown from $1 billion in 1990 to approximately $23 billion today. Individuals such as you and I have spoken loud and clear. We want organic produce.
But the disconcerting issue is that if Monsanto continues to get its way, organic production may become compromised. If we want to protect our right to choose, we must stand up and be heard. We must say no to the unchecked proliferation of GE crops. Will you make your voice heard?
If you want to join the growing movement against GE crops then go take a look at the Organic Consumers Association campaign here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/. They are looking for volunteers to help spread the word to legislators that we want the right to choose and that ability to choose must start with proper labeling of produce.
After all, if foods do not have to be labelled as GE, how can you choose to say no to GE foods?
That’s why Alberta farmers are working to establish a GM-Free alfalfa zone. in the Peace River region.
Adrian Desbarats, the author, has a passionate desire for balance between nature and human needs at all levels. A biologist, he started Fashion and Earth to provide families with earth friendly, stylish fashions as another option to add to their sustainable life styles. If you wish to learn more about eco friendly clothing then visit Fashion and Earth at:
Genetically Engineered Salmon Has Reached The Dinner Table.
This thanks to our friends at Nature News. AquaBounty Technologies, the company in Maynard, Massachusetts, that developed the fish, announced on 4 August that it has sold some 4.5 tonnes of its hotly debated product to customers in Canada.
The sale marks the first time that a genetically engineered animal has been sold for food on the open market. It took AquaBounty more than 25 years to get to this point.
The fish, a variety of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), is engineered to grow faster than its non-genetically modified counterpart, reaching market size in roughly half the time — about 18 months. AquaBounty sold its first commercial batch at market price: US$5.30 per pound ($11.70 per kilogram), says Ron Stotish, the company’s chief executive. He would not disclose who bought it.
AquaBounty raised the fish in tanks in a small facility in Panama. It plans to ramp up production by expanding a site on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, where local authorities gave the green light for construction in June. In the same month, the company also acquired a fish farm in Albany, Indiana; it awaits the nod from US regulators to begin production there.
The sale of the fish follows a long, hard-fought battle to navigate regulatory systems and win consumer acceptance. “Somebody’s got to be first and I’m glad it was them and not me,” says James West, a geneticist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who co-founded AgGenetics, a start-up company in Nashville that is engineering cattle for the dairy and beef industries. “If they had failed, it might have killed the engineered livestock industry for a generation,” he says.
AquaBounty’s gruelling path from scientific discovery to market terrified others working in animal biotechnology, and almost put the company out of business on several occasions. Scientists first demonstrated the fast-growing fish in 1989. They gave it a growth-hormone gene from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), along with genetic regulatory elements from a third species, the ocean pout (Zoarces americanus). The genetic modifications enable the salmon to produce a continuous low level of growth hormone.
AquaBounty formed around the technology in the early 1990s and approached regulators in the United States soon after. It then spent almost 25 years in regulatory limbo. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the salmon for consumption in November 2015, and Canadian authorities came to the same decision six months later. Neither country requires the salmon to be labelled as genetically engineered.
But unlike in Canada, political battles in the United States have stalled the salmon’s entry into the marketplace. The law setting out the US government’s budget for fiscal year 2017 includes a provision that instructs the FDA to forbid the sale of transgenic salmon until it has developed a programme to inform consumers that they are buying a genetically engineered product. Senator Lisa Murkowski (Republican, Alaska), who inserted the provision, has called AquaBounty’s salmon “fake fish”.
Activists in both the United States and Canada have demanded that regulators reconsider their decisions, and some have filed lawsuits. The Center for Food Safety, an environmental-advocacy group in Washington DC, sued the FDA last year in an attempt to overturn its salmon decision. The group says the agency lacks the legal authority to oversee genetically engineered animals, and that it made its decision without fully considering the environmental risks.
The announcement that AquaBounty’s fish are landing on Canadian tables is sure to dredge up opposition, says Stotish. He argues that the genetically engineered fish are good for the economy — attractive because they can be grown near metropolitan areas rather than being flown in from overseas, bringing salmon-farming jobs back to the United States and Canada. And because the AquaBounty salmon are grown in tanks, he adds, they don’t encounter many of the pathogens and parasites that often afflict salmon raised in sea cages.
“I think the larger market is viewing it as a more predictable, sustainable source of salmon,” Stotish says. “As a first sale this was very positive and encouraging for us.”
- Nature 548,148 () doi:10.1038/nature.2017.22116
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