Fifty-six U.S. senators and representatives have sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to retain the regulated status of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

The letter is in response to the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the transgenic crop that was completed late last year by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The legislators, headed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), take issue with APHIS’ preliminary finding that deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa would have “no significant impact” on the environment. They point out that, in the draft EIS, APHIS concludes that contamination of non-Roundup Ready alfalfa with the Roundup Ready gene is highly unlikely, and if it does happen, the impacts would be inconsequential.

“These conclusions are not supported by the evidence or the science,” the letter reads.

It warns that contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa by the Roundup Ready gene would result in significant economic harm to alfalfa seed producers and to the organic dairy industry, which generates about $1.4 billion in sales.

“Consumers today respect and rely on what the USDA certified seal represents, which includes no GE (genetically engineered) contamination,” says the letter. “If the USDA organic seal no longer represents a GE-free product, the integrity of the entire organic industry in this country will be compromised and consumers may no longer choose organic products.”

In addition, if the crop is deregulated, the legislators believe alfalfa growers could lose at least $197 million annually in alfalfa seed and hay exports as a result of contamination.

The legislators ask Vilsack to “fully review the facts, law and science in this case and take the ‘no action’ alternative to maintain the regulated status for GE alfalfa.”

Read the letter.