USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its decision to grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup.
“After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
The decision could impact the current biotech efforts on crops such as sweet corn, potatoes, and even the new plum-pox resistant plum HoneySweet.
After releasing a final EIS in December, USDA took another step to ensure that this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered (GE), organic, and other non-GE stakeholders. The stakeholders helped to identify areas of consensus; issues where the group disagreed and opportunities for further dialogue exist; and areas where USDA could – or should – play an important and helpful role.
In response to the request for support from its stakeholders, USDA is taking a number of steps, including:
- Reestablishing two important USDA advisory committees – Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, and the National Genetic Resources Advisory Committee
- These two committees will tackle a broad range of issues, from ensuring the availability of high quality seed, to helping ensure that growers have access to the best tools available to support their production choices, to whether risk management and indemnification options can play a role;
- Conducting research into areas such as ensuring the genetic integrity, production and preservation of alfalfa seeds entrusted to the germplasm system;
- Refining and extending current models of gene flow in alfalfa;
- Requesting proposals through the Small Business Innovation Research program to improve handling of forage seeds and detection of transgenes in alfalfa seeds and hay; and,
- Providing voluntary, third-party audits and verification of industry-led stewardship initiatives.
APHIS’ deregulation of Roundup ready alfalfa will become effective upon publication of the Agency’s determination of non-regulated status in the Federal Register.
USDA’s Record of Decision on RR alfalfa is available to the public at www.aphis.usda.gov.