Secretary of Agriculture’s Tom Vilsack’s effort to broker a Roundup Ready alfalfa/biotech peace treaty between the American agricultural majority and fringe organic and anti-GMO activists is not sitting well with either side.

Radical Ronnie Cummings of the Organic Consumers Association says “hell no to the idea of coexistence” with Monsanto or any major agribusiness corporation.

Mainstream agriculture is equally bewildered by, and skeptical of, USDA’s efforts to broker an 11th hour peace in a dispute that has been going on for 46 months for Roundup Ready alfalfa and for more than a decade with other biotech crops.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has written Vilsack expressing in the “strongest possible terms” its concerns regarding “unilateral actions” USDA is poised to take in the name of coexistence.

In a letter signed by Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, BIO executive vice president, food and agriculture, she said the first meeting of both sides on Dec. 20, “only served to heighten our concerns.”

The implications of USDA’s actions on RR alfalfa “would sweep far more broadly across the face of American agriculture, undermining a twenty-five year track record of science-based technological innovation that has brought significant benefits to growers, consumers and the environment without any evidence of adverse effects to health, safety or the environment.”

BIO supports coexistence in American agriculture, according to Lauritsen, who acknowledged the dramatic growth of organic farming. However, she also pointed out that none of the “rigorous health or environmental safety requirements” that USDA is attempting to apply to agricultural biotechnology are imposed on organic agriculture.

BIO charged that USDA is attempting to regulate coexistence under statutes that are not only ill suited, but legally incapable, and the department is “exceeding its statutory authority.

“Indeed the department appears to have lost sight of certain fundamental legal and scientific principles,” said Lauritsen.

“No court has ever directed USDA to regulate coexistence or change its coexistence policy, nor has any court held that a biotechnology-derived crop has presented a risk to health, safety or the environment,” she added.

The U.S. has worked long and hard to successfully establish and maintain a science-based regulatory process for agricultural biotechnology and the benefits of those efforts are irrefutable, she wrote.

“Now, as the rest of the world begins to recognize the benefits of this technology, is hardly the time to undermine the U.S. regulatory process in reliance on inapposite court decisions, market-based perceptions and false assumptions. We can ill afford to subject American agriculture and consumers to the same paralyzing effects as those imposed on European growers and consumers through the adoption of so-called “precautionary” principles rooted in myth, falsehood and innuendo,” she said.

She added that if USDA continues on its path, it would “totally undermine U.S. international trade interests and long-standing positions of the U.S. government in the World Trade Organization, International Plant Protection Convention and Biosafety Protocol, among others.”

Now that the EIS has been prepared for glyphosate-tolerant alfalfa, “it is time for USDA to prepare its record of decision and authorize full deregulation of this important crop as soon as possible,” she said.

Others are calling USDA’s efforts a stunning socio-economic regulatory effort that is moving USDA away from science-based decisions to pandering minority interests to the detriment of the majority of the nation’s farmers and ranchers.

If this precedent-setting effort succeeds, the Wall Street Journal said “it could permanently politicize a system that is supposed to be based on science.”

Orchestrating this coexistence initiative is USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, who helped develop the department’s organic labeling guidelines. Many view this as putting her on the side of the organic/anti-GMO element that wants at least to place untenable isolation and geographic planting restrictions on RR alfalfa.