When the April column was put to bed in late March, I thought, and hoped, it was time to put the Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA) saga to bed for a while. But an article in a weekly Marin County newspaper in early May was too good to pass up. The full-page article was a prime example of how hysteria is used to portray a scientific breakthrough as a diabolical plot destined to ruin the universe.

The article was written in conjunction with a meeting that was open to the public in Marin County and RR alfalfa was on the agenda. Marin isn’t Berkeley, but it’s one of several counties in the state that banned growers from planting GM crops. There was nothing of substance in the article, but it was a reminder that scare tactics are the only thing that the opposition has to offer these days.

For RRA, the strategy is to hammer on the consequences of feeding GM crops to dairy cows and the loss of organic milk. I wonder what the reply would be if someone points out that GM corn, soybeans and cottonseed have been a food source for some time now.

One person interviewed for the article brought up the Bt cotton breakdown in India several years ago. Looking at the information surrounding the breakdown, Bt didn’t hold up and worms had a field day. The failure, according to the article, prompted 50,000 or even 100,000 farmers to commit suicide. Anybody buy that? More than likely some people are naive enough to believe it.

In 2005, before deregulation, the CAFA office received a call from an angry person who used the Bt cotton problem to try and convince the association to just say no to RRA. Being reminded of the telephone conversation prompted me to check the current status in India. In February of this year the “Hindu Business Line” reported that India has the world's fourth largest area under genetically modified (GM) crops. In that case, maybe there weren’t 50,000 suicides after all.

EPA odds and ends

If you’re not happy with the Federal EPA you have lots of company. When the new administration came onboard in 2009 one of the first thoughts that came to mind was how agriculture would be treated. It seemed like environmental groups were getting bolder even before Obama took office. In an April 2 article (EPA slammed in House hearing) in Western Farm Press, members of the House Agricultural Committee showed complete contempt for EPA’s actions. California Rep. Jim Costa took EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to task for “agency activism.” He went on to say, “You want to have jurisdiction over an issue but the law may not quite say so … So you settle suits that allow you to then go pursue a course of action that you may not have within the law.”

Illinois Rep. Tim Johnson called EPA “the poster child for usurpation of legislative authority.” Wisconsin Rep. Reid Ribble didn’t mince words when he said, “I’ve never been in a committee hearing quite like this where everyone agrees you’ve got problems … The American people don’t trust you. You need to hear that and take it back.”

It’s nice to know that members of Congress are looking out for agriculture.