Roundup Ready alfalfa possible for Spring 2011 production
Casper – After moving through long litigation processes, both glyphosate-resistant, alfalfa and sugarbeets are still moving ahead toward planting and production, though alfalfa seems to have the most optimistic future.
On Dec. 16, 2010, the USDA announced that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for glyphosate-resistant, or Roundup Ready, alfalfa had been completed, and the agency described the pathways for future planning.
“The EIS supported the original conclusion of USDA APHIS, and found no reasonable likelihood of harm. We came through that nice and clean,” said Jeff Tichota of Monsanto at the 2011 Wyoming Recertification Rendezvous held in Casper mid-January and hosted by UW, the Wyoming Weed Management Association and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
The next step for Roundup Ready alfalfa involves the Secretary of Agriculture finding a way for genetically modified and non-genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to coexist in crop production.
“Monsanto and Forage Genetics are getting ready to offer Roundup Ready alfalfa again, as soon as the USDA makes a decision about deregulation,” said Tichota. “That deregulation will come with a set of guidelines on how we’ll get along with those folks who want non-GMO production, and we think that will happen in the next 30 days. We’re hopeful that Roundup Ready alfalfa will be offered to growers for spring 2011 production.”
On whether or not more litigation could keep Roundup Ready alfalfa tied in up court even longer, Tichota said, “This has been decided by the Supreme Court, so the litigation is over and done. The Supreme Court said the USDA has completed everything they need to, except figuring out how the GMO and non-GMO producers will get along. Unless they sit on their hands and don’t do anything, I think it should come out of there.”
Tichota said that anytime there’s a GMO event that comes out in a crop, whether it’s alfalfa, sugarbeets, corn, soybeans or cotton, there will be a group to challenge it.
“They will look for a sympathetic court in California, and that will at least force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA to make sure they’ve done what they need to,” he stated. “The safety of glyphosate has gone through the EPA’s re-registration process, and it’s been looked at in tremendous detail. We’ve been in Roundup Ready crops for 15 years now, so we have a long track record, and there’s no indication of the likelihood of glyphosate to harm people or animals.”
Responding to a question on how much seedstock is leftover from before the restrictions, and what that means for Wyoming’s alfalfa seed producers, Tichota said, “A lot of seed companies have Roundup Ready seed. When this lawsuit, and one judge, shut this down, all that seed went back on the shelf and has been sitting in the warehouse. We know it’s been there at least two years, and any company that sells alfalfa seed will want it to have good germ and good performance, and they’ll do the appropriate testing to make sure the growers are satisfied. We could have everything from a mountain of Roundup Ready seed that the companies feel is good to go, or it could be a tiny pile.”
Tichota said he expects the coexistence between Roundup Ready and non-GMO producers to include buffers and isolation, and looking at things like how far a bee will travel to pollinate.
On whether the coexistence restrictions will apply to all Roundup Ready growers, including forage producers, or just seed production, Tichota said, “Places like Powell and Oregon, which produce a lot of seed, will be the most scrutinized and locked down, and I suspect a lot of areas of forage production will be free to go. We’ll just have to know who our neighbors are.”
“If there is a Roundup Ready alfalfa producer next to a non-GMO grower, USDA will decide how they’ll get along, and we’ll all have to comply with whatever that looks like. I’m hopeful we’ll have a reasonable situation where we can produce both non-GMO and Roundup Ready alfalfa,” he said.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.