The ongoing GMO battle

Alfalfa and sugar beets are still struggling

February 9, 2011

At the end of January, just after the USDA approved the unrestricted use nationwide of GMO alfalfa seed, Gary Hirshberg, the president of Stonyfield Farm, penned an angry op-ed denouncing infighting among progressive food-reform activists and calling for continued protests against the federal decision. If you missed it, it’s worth a read:

From the outset of these stakeholder discussions, it was clear that GE alfalfa had overwhelming political, legal, financial and regulatory support, and thus the odds were severely stacked against any possibility of preventing some level of approval, just as has been the case with GE cotton, soy, canola and corn. Keep in mind that, according to Food & Water Watch, biotech has spent more than half a billion dollars ($547 million) lobbying Congress since 1999. Their lobby expenditures more than doubled during that time. In 2009 alone they spent $71 million. Last year they had more than 100 lobbying firms working for them, as well as their own in-house lobbyists.

A few days after the alfalfa decision, the USDA also overturned a ban on GMO sugar beets. For the local aspect of this issue, read NPR’s January report on two Oregon sugar-beet seed farmers — one organic, one conventional.

And for shoppers at the store, check out the Non-GMO Project, which is essentially a labeling project for certifying that food products are mostly GMO-free. That’s right, “mostly” — because it’s almost impossible to guarantee that a food is totally GMO-free.

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