Based on information received in early May there seemed to be positive news for RR alfalfa. According to EhayWeekly, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) mandated by a federal judge was “on track to be completed this year.” The EIS information was attributed to a source in the USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). It was good news for growers since other sources have said the EIS won’t be finalized until next spring.
Then, in June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto and reversed the 2007 court ruling that prohibited planting of RR alfalfa. Before the ruling was announced environmentalists ramped up their effort to keep RR alfalfa from being deregulated. According to an EhayWeekly article, “A U.S. senator and congressman are trying to line up support among colleagues for a letter they intend to send to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking that USDA maintain the ban on genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa (a.k.a. Roundup Ready alfalfa).”
We were a bit surprised at first, but shouldn’t have been since there is an all-out effort to stop RR alfalfa and other biotech crops that are being developed. The two members of Congress stirring up the pot are Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. A letter that Leahy and DeFazio circulated to drum up support from other members of Congress looked as though it was written exclusively by environmentalists. Not all growers are on the RR bandwagon, either, but serious discussions need to be based on facts.
In their letter Leahy and DeFazio acknowledge that the USDA’s draft EIS stated that there would be “no significant impact” if GE alfalfa is deregulated. They went on to note that nearly 200,000 comments were received during the public comment period, “most of which argued that the USDA findings were grossly inaccurate.”
Did either of the congressmen stop to think that if you have enough money to throw around you can get 200,000 people to buy into the hysteria that has been whipped up for GE crops? How do nearly 200,000 people know something that APHIS doesn’t? Anyone can make their pitch during the public comment period and the number of naysayers that were counted shows the desperation of environmental groups.
If you want information on how RR alfalfa has been scrutinized to date, read Jon Entine’s excellent article at National Review Online (http://article.nationalreview.com/436176/making-hay/jon-entine). Entine is a columnist for Ethical Corporation magazine and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. His informative article has some surprises we hadn’t heard about until we read his piece. In reference to the draft EIS, for example, Entine wrote, “Solicitor General Elena Kagan filed a brief on the biotechnology company’s behalf…” She contended that no problems have arisen and it’s highly unlikely any would occur. And yes, it is the Elena Kagan that has been nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court.
It will be interesting to see how Secretary Vilsack will respond to the letter being circulated to members of both the House and Senate. Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, comes from a state that has embraced biotech corn and soybeans. Regardless of which side you’re on, the RR alfalfa saga hasn’t been dull.