Monsanto and Forage Genetics International (FGI) resumed sales of Genuity RR alfalfa this spring. Due to the unique alfalfa production practices in the Imperial Valley, Monsanto Stewardship Lead Robert Nixon says farmers in the valley who plant the technology agree to additional stewardship of the technology.

Previously those commitments included: producing forage only - not seed or sprouts; maintaining a minimum 1-mile isolation area between Genuity RR alfalfa and any conventional alfalfa field used for forage or seed production; and to register the location of each Genuity RR alfalfa field with the California Crop Improvement Association.

“FGI and Monsanto are in discussions with Imperial County alfalfa growers to determine if these stewardship requirements are sufficient for their unique hay and seed production practices, particularly in light of the unexpected and rapid expansion of hay exports from the Imperial Valley to China,” Nixon said.

All Genuity RR alfalfa growers must have a valid Monsanto technology-stewardship agreement and follow the crop stewardship requirements in the current technology use guide including any addenda, Nixon said. 

The Emanuelli family has grown a wide range of crops in Brawley in the Imperial Valley for almost 100 years including alfalfa, Bermudagrass, barley, flax, canola, sugarbeets, onion, vegetables and citrus. Today, the J. Emanuelli and Sons farm includes 3,500 acres, with 2,000 acres of alfalfa.

Scott Emanuelli, 28, is the fourth generation and manages Top Notch Seed, Inc., started by the family in 2007. The onsite seed mill conditions and grades alfalfa seed. Emanuelli contracts seed production with proprietary genetics from Cal/West Seeds, Pioneer, Forage Genetics, S&W Seeds, and Dairyland Seed.

About 90 percent of the proprietary seed grown is for export, Emanuelli says. About 80 percent of the seed and 30 percent to 40 percent of the hay grown by the Emanuelli family are exported.

Emanuelli does not grow RR alfalfa. He is concerned about potential GE alfalfa production in the Imperial Valley. Emanuelli’s concerns are strictly about the economic situation exclusive to the Imperial Valley; not against technology.

“There are ample concerns about being excluded from export markets if biotech was introduced into the Imperial Valley,” Emanuelli said. “Our main concern is preserving the organic and conventional production of hay and seed for the export market. We are currently in open discussion with Monsanto and Forage Genetics through a partnership with the Imperial County Farm Bureau which is hosting open discussion forums.”

Emanuelli embraces technology as a tool to “help farmers feed the world’s growing population.”

He hopes GMO and non-GMO alfalfa can one day co-exist in the Imperial Valley with proper stewardship including “ample isolation” between GMO and non-GMO alfalfa production areas.

The export company ACX Pacific Northwest, based in Bakersfield, Calif., ships forage products from the Imperial Valley and other locations overseas. A post on the company’s website says some end users in the export market are not ready to accept RR alfalfa.

“We know genetically modified alfalfa might be accepted by some governments; however, end users are making it very clear they do not want this product,” the company said.