Big Ag 2, Organic Farmers 0 – USDA Approves GE Alfalfa and Sugar Beets

In nearly back-to-back announcements, the USDA has cleared both genetically engineered alfalfa and “Roundup Ready” sugar beets in time for spring planting.

According to Rodale Institute, which has been pioneering research of organic farming for more than 60 years,  the major issues associated with genetically engineered sugar beets are genetic contamination of related crops such as table beets and chard, as well as conventional non-GMO sugar beets, and the rise of superweeds caused by excessive spraying of the toxic herbicide Roundup.

Sugar beets are closely related to “spinach beets,” garden beets, and chard; all of which can be affected by wind-blown pollen. Growers of organic produce could be seriously affected if their crops are contaminated with GE sugar beet pollen, since organic regulations prohibit GMOs of any kind.

The planting of both the “Roundup Ready” sugar beets and the genetically engineered alfalfa had been held up in the courts until the USDA completed environmental impact studies (EIS) examining the economic consequences of cross-pollination, especially for organic farmers. The USDA has now cleared planting of both without the studies having been completed.

GoodFood World will be attending Organicology, a 3-day conference focused on sustainability, farming and seed issues, February 10-12. Watch for coverage beginning, February 9.