The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for the first time in history, is considering placing limits on where, when and how glyphosate-tolerant (GT) alfalfa can be planted. At first glance, once might dismiss this by saying, “Roundup Ready Alfalfa would only be planted on a small number of acres. It’s not that big of a deal.”
It is a big deal, however, when you consider the precedent this would set for other biotechnology-derived crops. In 2009, there were 158 million acres of biotech crops planted in the United States, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
For 25 years, the United States regulatory system for biotechnology has been the world leader based on a consistent, science-based decision-making process. We must act now to ensure the regulatory status of GT-alfalfa does not threaten the U.S.’ status as a world leader in agriculture.
Science, not politics, should be the driving factor in the USDA’s handling of GT-alfalfa. Perhaps the Wall Street Journal, in a Review and Outlook piece published Dec. 27, 2010, stated it best when it printed:
“While it may not be one of the major biotech crops, alfalfa is a regulatory test that could open the gate for similarly politically driven negotiations on non-organic crops from sugar beets to soybeans. If nonscience criteria are introduced as considerations for allowing the sale of biotech crops, the effect would be disastrous for the USDA’s regulatory reputation. We hope Secretary Vilsack makes his decision based on science, not politics.”