Earlier this month a shipment of alfafa from Washington State, USA, was rejected after it was found to be contaminated with genetically modified (GM) herbicide-resistant alfalfa.
This is now the second case of GM contamination in US crops. In the summer a farmer in Oregon found GM wheat in his wheat field. It resulted in the suspension of imports by Japan and South Korea. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are investigating the discovery and have said they believe it to be “a single isolated incident in a single field on a single fare”.
This new discovery could have major implications for the US export market. Which was estimated to be worth US1.25 billion in 2012. Even though the US regulators have given GM alfalfa the green light many foreign buyers do not accept it due to health and environmental concerns.
The issue also goes beyond alfalfa exports. Since it is a widely used livestock feed domestic organic dairy farmers have said that any contamination of the hay they feed their animals could hurt their sales.
GM “Roundup Ready” alfalfa was approved by USDA in 2011 to be planted without restrictions after several years of litigation and complaints by critics. Opponents was warned that because it is a perennial crop, meaning it remains in the ground for 3-6 years and is widely prevalent in wild or feral form throughout America. Added to the fact that alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can fly and cross-pollinate between fields and feral sources many miles apart, GE alfalfa is likely to irreparably contaminate natural alfalfa varieties.