The American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) voted at its annual meeting on January 7 in Galveston, TX to oppose the controversial deregulation of Monsanto’s genetically engineered Round-up Ready Alfalfa. Donald Schmidt, who farms 800 acres near Winner, South Dakota and is the Past President of the ABF, said he hopes that the resolution will make people more aware “of what’s going on.”
The ABF resolution notes that about one-third of our food supply depends on pollination. It raises concerns about the transfer of genes from Monsanto’s GE alfalfa to both conventional and organic alfalfa crops, resulting in their contamination. And because alfalfa is a perennial crop (the first of its kind considered for deregulation by the USDA), the resolution states that the gene transfer “would spread uncontrollably year after year thereafter.”
“I know as a beekeeper there is going to be cross pollination from those [GE alfalfa] fields,” Schmidt says.
Contamination and fear of contamination is something that Schmidt thinks could also worsen relations between neighboring farmers and beekeepers. Monsanto in the past has aggressively pursued and successfully sued farmers raising crops containing residues of their company’s proprietary genetic material. This will, Schmidt notes, “make it tougher to deal with landowners.”
The USDA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, released on Dec. 16. 2010, identified three potential options. Maintain regulation of the crop (supported by Cornucopia, the ABF and numerous other organizations concerned with GE contamination), total deregulation (supported by Monsanto and the biotech industry), or limited regulation with some geographic restrictions on the planting of GE Alfalfa.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack flat out rejected the first option, and indicated that they agency will announce its final choice sometime after January 24, 2011.
See Cornucopia’s factsheet on GE Alfalfa.