USDA issues administrative order in Roundup Ready alfalfa matter
- by Roger McEowen
Earlier this year, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction on temporarily halting the planting of GMO alfalfa in the U.S. The injunction allows continued harvest, use and sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa, but places limits on the purchase and planting of seed until further hearings are held. Farmers who already have purchased Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa were required to plant it by March 30. No new sales of the seed were allowed after March 12. The order also specifies that farmers intending to plant alfalfa after March 30, 2007, must plant non-genetically engineered alfalfa. Approximately 200,000 acres of genetically modified alfalfa already have been planted in across the U.S., and the court’s order does not require those crops to be removed. The court heard oral arguments in the case concerning the nature of any permanent injunctive relief on April 27 and, on May 3, the court made the injunction permanent.
As a result of the injunction, Roundup Ready alfalfa is a regulated article under the Plant Protection Act. In response to the permanent injunction, USDA has issued an administrative order specifying mandatory production practices that must be implemented by Roundup Ready alfalfa producers. The order specifies that pollinators cannot be added to Roundup Ready alfalfa fields grown only for hay production. Concerning the cleaning of harvesting equipment, no cleaning is required for equipment that is dedicated exclusively for the production of Roundup Ready alfalfa hay or seed, but the equipment must be marked with a sign or label stating that it is to be used only with Roundup Ready alfalfa. Equipment that is used for Roundup Ready and non-Roundup Ready alfalfa must be cleaned in the field before it is moved to a non-Roundup Ready field. Among other requirements, the order states that Roundup Ready hay bales that leave the farm where they are produced must be tagged with a bale tag denoting “Roundup Ready Alfalfa.” USDA Administrative Order issued July 12, 2007 and available at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/alfalfa.shtml.