What is in this article?:
- Alfalfa industry wrestles with GE contamination issues
- GE-free planting seed
- Zero tolerance
- Alfalfa is the fifth glyphosate-tolerant crop commercialized in the U.S.; however, it has become perhaps the most scrutinized and debated of all genetically engineered crops grown.
Major alfalfa issues swirl around:
- Seed production isolation/possible cross pollination of Roundup Ready alfalfa with conventional varieties.
- Availability of conventional varieties in the future.
- The capability to guarantee GE-free alfalfa for organic dairies.
- The impact of RR alfalfa on export markets opposed to GE crops.
GE-free planting seed
However, he is concerned about getting GE-free planting seed.
He has been pleased to learn of more stringent isolation requirements for RR alfalfa seed production.
Rod Christensen, executive secretary, National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, detailed to symposium attendees state and national seed production isolation procedures to maintain seed purity and avoid contamination.
Coexistence is not a new phenomenon in agriculture, said Christensen. The 70-year-old seed certification program allows for the coexistence of seed production of different varieties in the same area based on crop biology, production system and isolation that ensure seed genetic purity.
The alfalfa seed and forage alfalfa industries, under the leadership of the alliance, have developed more draconian strategies and tools specific to the GE industry that complement existing programs and procedures.
These include new Grower Opportunity Zones (GOZ) where only GE alfalfa seed or conventional variety seed could be produced.
There are currently 12 organized GOZs with two more under consideration.
One area where RR alfalfa seed cannot be produced is California’s Imperial Valley where there is an alfalfa field on just about every corner.
Brawley, Calif., seed and hay producer Scott Emanuelli told the audience that 225,000 acres of the 450,000 of farmland in the Southern California desert valley are planted to alfalfa. Imperial Valley has declared itself “A Roundup Ready free growing region” to protect not only existing conventional and organic seed production, but also the valley’s lucrative hay export market. Many overseas buyers will not accept GE crops.
“As it stands today, co-existence is not possible in the Imperial Valley” for a variety of reasons, Emanuelli said. Approximately 50 percent of it is custom harvested, and machines travel between fields without clean downs and possibly without knowledge of whether the stand would be GE or conventional. Imperial County also has a very large honey bee business and bees are scattered around the entire valley, increasing the potential for cross pollination. In addition to all that, a large percentage of the alfalfa acreage can go to seed and all of the hay will definitely bloom during extreme summer heat.