Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Article deleted as of Feb 25 because of fraudulent information - NEW INFO - Not fraudulent, USDA has letter: "Leading Plant Scientist Sounds Alarm—USDA GM Alfalfa Decision Under Possible Review | Cooking Up a Story"

Scientist Letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack Possibly a Fraud | Cooking Up a Story  Feb 25 - I deleted the "Cooking up a Story" article that indicated that a leading plant scientist was revealing new information about gmo's - because (as the link above discusses) the letter sent to the USDA seemed to be fraudulent, but now USDA admits to having letter and will respond to scientist directly.  Perhaps the whole thing is a HUGE misunderstanding, was never claimed to be fraudulent, ....I really don't know.   I know that the recent USDA GM Alfalfa decision has opponents of genetic engineering up in arms, but it is always disappointing to see it when opposing sides of the debate go to the extent of spreading lies and misinformation.  Or maybe someone just jumped to the wrong conclusion.  I have been following agricultural issues and trends for thirty years now, and read everything I can on GMOs and talk to scientists, farmers, policy makers to understand all points in the debate.  It's hard to get to the truth of the matter when misrepresentations are made, or suspicion is in the air .
    I had the good fortune to hear Canadian MP Alex Atamanenko speak at our BC Sheep Federation AGM this year, and talk to him personally about his efforts to address some issues concerning the introduction of GMO foods into the marketplace with his member's bill C-474 (recently defeated).  Some scientists see great potential for the technology, some see a host of undetermined consequences.  Same with farmers.
     At this time of year, I like to feed alfalfa to the ewes, along with some locally grown barley, our own grass hay, and whatever stockpiled grass we have.  Alfalfa is high in calcium, vitamin A, and protein.  The sheep love it, and the baby lambs nibble at the alfalfa leaves and it gives them a good start.  We can't easily grow alfalfa here - it likes a sandy soil, deep because of the deep roots, and a dry climate for the alfalfa to cure.  We could try, but it is one of the few inputs I buy for the farm.  The alfalfa that comes to our area is grown in the interior of BC, in Alberta, or in Washington State.  Sometimes when you buy from a feed store you might not be sure of the source, but it is generally from one of those three areas.

With the US decision to allow Roundup-Ready Alfalfa to be deregulated, thus allowing it to be grown anywhere in the US, we have to consider the impact on our farm and others in BC who use alfalfa.  Will the alfalfa from Washington be RR-Alfalfa? What do alfalfa producers in BC think?  I asked a friend who grows alfalfa in the interior what she thought.

She said "I don't know much about the GMO alfalfa, just that we haven't planted any of  it. 
We go out of our way to purchase very winter hardy and disease resistant varieties AND a selection of them so as not to have a monoculture. We also sow a good percentage of orchard grass with it. So far, we have only needed to seed all our fields once - reseeding needs to start now on our first field we seeded/ re did  in 2003.
I like the multi branching alfalfa's, they hold their softness longer if we have to wait for weather to cut. They don't go 'hard', they tend to just keep on growing with new young branches."
I downloaded the USDA decision document, but haven't slogged through it yet. I think that the decision was partly based on the use of Roundup  to establish a pure stand of alfalfa around the time of planting - the field will produce for several years without the need of Roundup before replanting is needed.  The Roundup would keep weeds down as the small plants became established.  
I also think that the decision was also based on the "Genie being let out of the bottle".  A legal paper I just read stated that some GM contaminants are now expected in non-GM products, so there would be a much more complicated issue as to who is to blame, in the case of contamination.  This has also been verified by several farm publications, and is a reasonable expectation of anything introduced to the environment that has the ability to persist for any length of time.  Organic foods can't use the claim "pesticide free", but they can say "pesticides not used", because of the long time use of pesticides, some of which have persisted and spread int he environment.
So far the biggest problem we have had with alfalfa is a star thistle contamination of some Washington alfalfa a few years ago, which irritated the sheep's mouths. 
Now I don't have to just think about where my food comes from, I have to think about where my sheep's food comes from - and what the long term consequences may be.

No comments:

Post a Comment