Effects of genetically engineered alfalfa cultivate a debate

US - The government was premature in deregulating production of alfalfa that is genetically engineered to resist a weed-killing herbicide, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
calendar icon 16 February 2007
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture should not have acted as it did in 2005 without assessing the environmental effect of crops genetically modified to resist the herbicide Roundup, ruled U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California. The suit against the USDA was filed by the anti-biotech Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club and organic alfalfa (hay) farmers. It accused the USDA of violating federal law by not requiring the environmental assessment.

Opponents of biotech crops, which are genetically engineered to have certain qualities, such as resistance to weed killers, have expressed concerns that they could interbreed with wild plants and create herbicide-resistant weeds.

Alfalfa is the nation's fourth-largest crop and is fed to farm animals, especially dairy cattle.

"There's potential for these crops to contaminate non-genetically engineered alfalfa," says Will Rostov, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety. This is particularly a concern for organic farmers, because genetically engineered plants cannot be sold as organic.

The Roundup Ready alfalfa cited in the suit was developed and sold by Forge Genetics of Minnesota, using technology from Monsanto. It allows growers to spray fields with Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, in which the chemical glyphosate is the active ingredient, killing weeds without hurting the alfalfa.

Source: USA Today
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