Cornucopia’s Take: Cornucopia vigorously opposed the introduction of GMO alfalfa. We highlighted many of the problems with the GMO version of this perennial and important crop for farmers. Both organic and conventional farmers expressed considerable concern over Monsanto’s alfalfa creation. It’s interesting that it has thus far failed to meet the biotech giant’s expectations.
Growers embrace some GMO crops, but only give GMO alfalfa a handshake
by Chuck Abbott
Source: Michell Tribe
Two decades after the first GMO crops were approved for cultivation, nearly half of U.S. cropland is planted with genetically engineered seeds, chiefly corn, soybeans and cotton. Farmers have greeted GE canola and sugarbeets with ardor, but alfalfa is the wallflower at the GMO party, says a USDA report.
GMO varieties account for a comparatively small 13 percent of alfalfa land while most GE crops quickly capture 90 percent or more of plantings, say three USDA economists. Used in livestock rations, especially for dairy cattle, alfalfa is the fourth-most widely grown crop in the country, behind corn, soybeans and wheat, and ranks fourth in crop value. Alfalfa was the first widely grown GE perennial crop.
It is not clear if GE alfalfa offers higher yields than conventional varieties because of the multitude of factors in play — weather, soils, precipitation, pest damage and fertilizer usage. As well, there are hundreds of varieties of alfalfa. “Comparisons suggest that yields tend to be higher on fields where farmers have planted GE seeds, (but) they do not demonstrate that these increases were caused by GE varieties,” write the USDA economists.