Growers of conventional, organic and genetically engineered alfalfa can all co-exist in the marketplace if they adopt appropriate agricultural practices, according to a recently released report that was prepared under the leadership of a UC Davis plant scientist.

The report, titled "Gene Flow in Alfalfa: Biology, Mitigation and Potential Impact on Production," was published in September by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. UC Davis plant scientists Allen Van Deynze, Dan Putnam and Larry Teuber co-authored the publication.

"We now have enough scientific data to design strategies for preventing gene flow from genetically engineered to conventional or organic alfalfa hay and seed operations," said Van Deynze, a researcher in UC Davis' Seed Biotechnology Center who chaired the report task force.

"Understanding potential gene flow in alfalfa hay and seed production is an important first step in developing management strategies designed to mitigate gene flow," he said.

Alfalfa, the fourth largest U.S. crop by land area, is an introduced crop in North America. Although the majority of the domestic alfalfa market is not sensitive to the unintentional introduction of genetically engineered alfalfa seed or plant material, such introduction is a major issue for a portion of the domestic market and much of the export market.

"Although 100 percent purity of any commodity is difficult to achieve and probably not economically feasible at the field scale, we are confident that appropriate farming, processing and transportation practices can be adopted that will minimize the unwanted and unintentional movement of genetic material between different production systems if low, practical thresholds are accepted," Van Deynze said.

"Adoption of such strategies should enable growers of conventional, genetically engineered and organic alfalfa hay and seed to all continue operating successfully," he said.

This 30-page report. written and reviewed by a 12-member task force of scientific experts, is available electronically for $10 or as a paper copy for $18 plus shipping expenses. It can be purchased by contacting the council at (515) 292-2125 or online at www.cast-science.org/.