[permaculture] Fw: [cban e-News] GE Alfalfa: Updates and New Immediate Actions!

fdnokes at hotmail.com fdnokes at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 4 18:03:01 EST 2010

From: Lucy Sharratt - CBAN Coordinator 
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2010 9:47 AM
To: cban-e-news at cban.ca 
Subject: [cban e-News] GE Alfalfa: Updates and New Immediate Actions!

Updates and New Actions on GE Alfalfa:  Over 200,000 people from the US and Canada sent critical comments to the USDA!

Thank you to everyone who sent comments to the USDA. 

CBAN also collected signatures from 103 Canadian farmers and consumer groups that were added to the US National Organic Coalition sign-on list. Our Canadian signatures were 1/3rd of that list!

Your actions are still needed - over the next two months, we can stop GE alfalfa! 

You can take new action to stop GE alfalfa! - Write your MP today from http://cban.ca/Take-Action/Support-Bill-C-474  

March and April will be decisive for the future of alfalfa in Canada and the US:

March 17: Bill C-474 will be debated! - Write your MP today from http://cban.ca/Take-Action/Support-Bill-C-474  The Bill will require that “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.” This Bill would create a concrete obstacle to GE alfalfa and GE wheat. This Bill could pass if enough Canadians write to their MPs before March 17 (this date could change).

March 30: The Canadian government and seed industry will meet to change the regulations that would allow GE alfalfa onto the market! CBAN will be there.

April 27: CBAN will support the fight against Monsanto's challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. Monsanto is seeking to end the injunction on GE alfalfa plantings at the U.S. Supreme Court. This case will have implications for all future court cases that aim to stop GE plantings in the U.S..

Your financial contributions to CBAN at this time will help support our work to stop GE alfalfa. Please consider a tax-deductible donation http://www.cban.ca/donate

Please stay tuned for action alerts. 

Thank you for your continued action and support at this critical time, Best regards, Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
 More Than 200,000 NGOs, Farmers, Consumers, and Organic Producers

Call for USDA to Prohibit Genetically Engineered Alfalfa 

Resulting contamination of non-GE and organic alfalfa hay and seed would devastate livelihoods and organic industry

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2010 – The National Organic Coalition (NOC) today announced that more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) critiquing the substance and conclusions of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Genetically Engineered (GE) Alfalfa. Groups, including NOC, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Organic Consumers Association, Food & Water Watch, CREDO Action and Food Democracy Now, mobilized their communities to help generate the unprecedented number of comments.

 In addition, more than 300 public interest organizations, farmers, dairies, retailers and organic food producers from the U.S. and Canada delivered a strongly worded letter to USDA, calling upon it to deny approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, Roundup Ready alfalfa (GE alfalfa). The letter cites the inevitable contamination of organic and non-GE alfalfa hay and seeds and threats to the viability of organic dairies, livestock, and meat and dairy producers as reasons for urging the denial. NOC, Organic Valley, Whole Foods, National Cooperative Grocers Association, CFS and others agree that it would be irresponsible government policy to approve GE alfalfa in the absence of legal requirements holding companies accountable for GE contamination, as is currently the case.

In 2006, CFS sued USDA for its illegal approval of Monsanto’s GE alfalfa. USDA failed to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS), as required by law, before deregulating the crop.[i]  The federal courts sided with CFS and banned GE alfalfa plantings until USDA analyzed the impacts of GE alfalfa on the environment, farmers and the public. Today marks the deadline for submitting public comments on the draft EIS, which recommends approving Monsanto’s GE alfalfa.

USDA’s EIS claims that organic consumers do not care about GE contamination of their food, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Consumer surveys show that 75 percent or more of respondents repeatedly say that they do not want to eat GE contaminated food and cite their desire to avoid GE food as one of the top five reasons for buying organic.[ii] 

“GE alfalfa threatens the very fabric of the organic industry,” adds George Siemon, one of the founding farmers and CEO of Organic Valley. “Organic consumers want seeds and products to remain unpolluted by GE.”

Independent, empirical studies and past experience show that containment of GE pollen and seeds is not possible GE alfalfa pollen can travel six miles or more in the air, via bees or other pollinators.[iii] Seeds can also travel long distances on harvesting equipment and on the boots and in the trucks of people who work in fields and transport hay and seeds. More than 200 known cases of GE contamination have been documented within the last decade. The most serious and immediate cases of contamination are in canola (rapeseed) crops. Due to widespread contamination, canola crops and oil can no longer be marketed as organic or non-GE in Western Canada. 

 “The continued deregulation of GE crops threatens our food supply and the diverse organic and conventional farming systems that have fed the world’s growing population for centuries,” said Lisa J. Bunin, Ph.D., Organic Policy Coordinator at Center for Food Safety. “It is unconscionable for USDA to increasingly allow the concentration of our nation’s seed supply in the hands of a few GE companies that produce a limited number of novel, pesticide-promoting seed varieties.”

Despite the inevitable contamination from GE alfalfa, the EIS disavows this harm and places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters. “If Roundup Ready Alfalfa is permitted to be sold commercially, the ripple effect would wipe out many organic and non-GE businesses, from organic seed and forage growers to organic dairy farmers and retailers,” said Liana Hoodes, Director, National Organic Coalition. “Every American’s right to cultivate, sell and eat non-GE and organic food would no longer exist.”

Even though the EIS acknowledges that GE alfalfa would increase Roundup herbicide use, since the vast majority of alfalfa farmers do not use any herbicides at all (93 percent), it omits the fact that planting GE alfalfa would require many farmers to use Roundup for the very first time. This would result in the spread of toxic chemicals in regions where such toxins were previously non-existent. Over the past 13 years, the planting of GE crops has significantly increased herbicide use on corn, soybeans and cotton - by 383 million pounds.[iv] GE alfalfa deregulation would markedly add to that high toxic burden on the environment.

"Our genetic gene pool is extremely valuable, and we can't afford to destroy it by handing it over to the biotech companies,” warns Conventional South Dakota alfalfa seed and hay grower, Chuck Noble. “If we've learned anything from Europe's potato famines when millions starved to death, humans need seed variety to protect against blight and famine. Genetic engineering severely compromises that diversity."

To receive updates on GE alfalfa and action alerts for other food issues, consumers can visit Center for Food Safety (www.truefoodnow.org) and join the True Food Network community.

 About the National Organic Coalition
The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is a national alliance of organizations working to provide a “Washington voice” for farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, consumers and progressive industry members involved in organic agriculture.  NOC seeks to work cooperatively with, and add value to, existing organic and sustainable agriculture organizations, networks and coalitions to ensure a united voice for organic integrity.


[i] An EIS is a rigorous analysis of the potential significant environmental, economic, and social impacts of a federal decision, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

[ii] Organic Community Comments to APHIS, Proposed Rule and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Introduction of Genetically Engineered Organisms, APHIS Docket 2008-002, June 29, 2009.  The Hartman Group.  (2006)  “Consumer Attitudes & Behavior, Five Years Later & Into the Future.”

[iii] United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status.  Draft Environmental Impact Statement—November 2009.  P.95.[iv] http://truefoodnow.org/2009/11/17/new-report-reveals-dramatic-rise-in-pesticide-use-on-genetically-engineered-ge-crops-due-to-the-spread-of-resistant-weeds/


Consumers Union Poll: Two-Thirds of Organic Food Consumers Concerned with Genetically Engineered Contamination 

Results Contradict USDA's Position That Consumers Don't Care 

Public Comment on Draft USDA Environmental Impact Statement on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa Due March 3

Yonkers, NY-Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, today released new poll data showing that two-thirds of organic food consumers are concerned about genetically engineered (GE) ingredients contaminating organic food.  Given the popularity of alfalfa sprouts among health-oriented eaters, Consumers Union urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider the overwhelming consumer concern before deciding to allow GE alfalfa on the market. USDA has until Wednesday, March 3 to receive public comment on its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on approval of GE alfalfa. The poll results can be found online at http://greenerchoices.org/pdf/OrganicFood%20Poll_Public%20Release_Feb%202010.pdf. 

"USDA's draft EIS is inadequate, leaving farmers and consumers unprotected.  This alfalfa has been engineered to allow herbicides to be used on it that would normally kill the crop. The EIS states that consumers and organic farmers don't care if their organic food is GE contaminated," said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist with Consumers Union.  "Consumers Union's poll states the exact opposite: consumers care greatly."

In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued USDA on behalf of farmers and others regarding its approval of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, saying that USDA should have prepared an EIS.  CFS won and USDA was required to prepare a full EIS analyzing the impact of approving GE alfalfa on the environment, farmers, and the public.  While USDA prepared the EIS, Monsanto appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case later this year. In the meantime, farmers are in limbo about the legality of planting GE alfalfa this spring.   

The Consumers Union poll found:

* A majority of respondents expressed some level of concern with genetic engineering contamination of organic food crops. Overall, 58% said they were extremely concerned, very concerned or somewhat concerned with this contamination.  
* Two-thirds (66%) of consumers who purchase organic food indicated being concerned versus half (50%) of those who don't make organic food purchases.

"Genetically engineered corn and soy are widely grown in the U.S. and organic farmers and processors are having a very hard time keeping it out of organic food and animal feed, where it is prohibited.  Allowing GE alfalfa on the market will create a whole new set of problems for the organic industry in maintaining organic integrity.  Once an engineered variety is grown outside, it is almost impossible to contain it," said Dr. Hansen. "We are also concerned that there is no FDA safety approval process for GE foods-companies may consult with FDA, but it is up to the companies themselves to decide if an engineered food is safe." 

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey using a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. 1,015 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place over February 4-7, 2010. The sampling error is +/- 3.1% at a 95% level.

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator  
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) 
Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice 
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor 
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5 
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506 
coordinator at cban.ca 

Join the Global Rejection of GE Wheat! www.cban.ca/GEwheat

Donate today to support the campaign  www.cban.ca/donate 


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