On Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) had approved the unrestricted planting of genetically modified alfalfa sold by Monsanto Co. and Forge Genetics, despite protests from organic groups and public health advocates and comments from nearly 250,000 citizens asking the department to keep this GMO genie in its bottle. With this announcement, the Obama administration showed whose side it is on in the battle between proponents of sustainable, organic agriculture and the big businesses that profit from conventional, chemical agriculture. Big Ag won. It wasn't even close.
If you eat meat or dairy, you indirectly consume alfalfa. It is a leading source of hay for cattle. In terms of acreage, alfalfa is the United States' fourth biggest crop behind corn, soybeans, and wheat. It is also notoriously promiscuous, and its pollen can be carried by bees and other insects for five miles, making it all but certain that the GMO crop, designed to survive applications of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, will contaminate much of the country's conventional alfalfa. Because GMO products are not allowed in USDA-certified foods, it could become all but impossible to produce organic milk and meat in many areas unless organic farmers switch to less desirable sources of forage.