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Hawai'i CFS

USDA Releases Final Environmental Impact Statement for Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

December 16, 2010



The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that sets forth its plans to once again allow commercial planting of Monsantos genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa. The FEIS gives USDA three options for RR alfalfa its two preferred options are to either completely deregulate the crop, allowing it to be grown anywhere or impose geographic restrictions and isolation requirements limiting where the crop can be grown. Another still possible option is to continue the ban on the crop because of its environmental and economic impacts.

"The only option that will protect organic and conventional alfalfa growers and dairies is for the USDA to deny any approval of GE alfalfa" stated Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS). We are disappointed that the agency has not made this one of its preferred options but are encouraged that it remains an option being considered by the agency.

On a call today with CFS and other stakeholders, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that USDAs Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will be submitting the EIS to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for publication in the Federal Register. USDA anticipates that EPA will publish a notice in the Federal Register on December 23, 2010 announcing the availability of the final EIS on RR alfalfa for public review. There will be a 30-day review period for the FEIS, in which comments can be submitted for consideration by APHIS, before USDA publishes a record of decision on how it will proceed.

The FEIS comes in response to a 2007 lawsuit brought by CFS, in which a Federal court ruled that the USDAs approval of GE alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa and the development of superweeds that are resistant to Monsantos herbicide, Roundup. The court banned the planting of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a rigorous analysis of these impacts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on GE alfalfa planting. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on Monsantos Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs.

In response to USDAs Draft EIS, published nearly a year ago, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), joined by 49 other representatives and five other senators, sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack asking USDA to retain the regulated status of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. In their letter, endorsed by over 50 businesses and organizations the lawmakers assert that the draft USDA findings about genetically engineered alfalfa cannot be justified. In March 2010, more than 244,000 people submitted comments to the USDA critiquing the substance and conclusions of its Draft EIS on GE Alfalfa. Groups, including CFS, the National Organic Coalition (NOC), Organic Consumers Association, Food & Water Watch, the Institute for Responsible Technology, CREDO Action and Food Democracy Now, mobilized their communities to help generate the unprecedented number of comments. In addition, more than 300 public interest organizations, farmers, dairies, retailers and organic food producers from the U.S. and Canada delivered a strongly worded letter to USDA, calling upon it to deny approval of Monsantos genetically engineered, Roundup Ready alfalfa (GE alfalfa).

CFS is currently reviewing the USDA decision and will make further comments once the documents have been thoroughly reviewed and when the agency makes its final decision.

USDA's Announcement can be found HERE

The Final EIS and related documents can be found HERE


The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS currently represents more than 175,000 members across the nation.