alfalfa

Did Monsanto pressure the USDA to approve genetically modified alfalfa?

That’s the question Washington-based Center for Food Safety is hoping to get answered with a lawsuit filed against the USDA in efforts to get the agency to release documents about the approval of the important agricultural crop.

“USDA determined Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa posed significant environmental and economic harms and initially proposed placing restrictions on it. Yet the agency went ahead and granted full unrestricted approval one month later,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “Did the White House intervene? Did Monsanto pressure the agency? The fact is we don’t know, and unless the court orders USDA to hand over these documents we may never know.”

According to an email statement received by the Los Angeles Times, Monsanto deflected the charge about its genetically modified alfalfa. “Many thousands of farmers across the U.S. currently grow Roundup Ready alfalfa, corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and canola,” the company said. “Each of these crops was subjected to thorough scientific review by three separate federal agencies before reaching the market; none presents the types of risks CFS alleges.”

Alfalfa is grown for feed for cattle. It’s the fourth most common U.S. crop after corn, soybeans and wheat, reports the Times. U.S.-grown alfalfa is also exported to a number of other countries, and opponents of GM alfalfa are concerned that it could contaminate traditional and organically grown alfalfa since all alfalfa is pollinated by bees.

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