Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Pollination Contamination

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Pollination Contamination

Article excerpt

Sometimes it's no fun being right.

For six years, organic farmers and sustainable food activists warned US regulators that if they approved genetically modified alfalfa, it would be a disaster for many growers. The biggest threat, they cautioned, would be uncontrollable cross-pollination that would spread GM alfalfa into the fields of other farmers who wanted to stay GM-free--a reasonable worry given that alfalfa is easily pollinated by bees and other insects that forage over miles.

Now the warning has come true.

In August, an alfalfa farmer in Washington state had his crop rejected for export because it contained traces of genetically modified alfalfa. GM critics say the incident proves that non-GM farmers will end up bearing the cost of any cross-pollination that leads to contamination.

"Co-existence is a myth," says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. "We don't know how to control contamination. They say biotech is just another tool in the toolbox. That is not true. It's a tool that takes over all the other tools and makes them worthless."

The US Department of Agriculture first moved to approve GM alfalfa in 2005. But environmental groups and some seed companies sued the agency and, in 2006, forced it to rescind approval after a federal court found that the USDA had not conducted a proper environmental review. At one point the USDA considered only allowing restricted plantings of GM alfalfa, to try to isolate it from non-GM crops. …

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