DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Contamination of organic and traditional crops by recently deregulated, genetically modified alfalfa is inevitable, agriculture experts said, despite Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's recent assurances the federal government would take steps to prevent such a problem.
Many farmers had been pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve the use of genetically modified alfalfa. Monsanto developed the seed to resist the weedkiller Roundup, allowing farmers to use the two together to save time and labor on weeding. Supporters also say the use of the genetically modified seeds lets farmers grow more alfalfa on each acre and helps keep food prices low.
Opponents, many of them organic farmers, say widespread planting of genetically modified alfalfa will result in pollen from those plants contaminating organic and traditional crops, destroying their value. While alfalfa is mostly used as hay for cattle, some consumers don't want to eat foods, such as milk or beef, from animals that have consumed genetically modified plants.
Alfalfa is grown on about 20 million acres in almost every state in the U.S. and is the fourth largest field crop behind corn, soybeans and wheat.