I read your article, Roundup Ready Reality?. Is the real story about emotion trumping science or is big business using the legal wheels of patent law, manipulating the rights and freedoms of American farmers?
First, consider the effect of glyphosate (Roundup) on alfalfa production. Robert Kramer and Jennifer E. Fox recently published articles showing herbicides' negative impact on crop health and soil biology. Kramer found two to five times higher colonization of Fusarium spp. (a fungal disease) on soybeans sprayed with glyphosate. Fox's research demonstrated pesticide's negative impact on nitrogen fixation, limiting alfalfa productivity. Information like this makes me wonder … what is the driving factor behind Undersander's and Putnam's defense of RR alfalfa?
Second, the authors claim to be coming from a “scientific” perspective, but it appears they're using their university positions to manipulate public perception and “spin” arguments.
In a 2004 statement by Putnam on a University of California-Davis Web site, when he was involved in university testing, he claimed he didn't expect much resistance to GMO alfalfa because other GMO crops have already been accepted by farmers. Putnam said: “Alfalfa is grown on more acres in California than any other crop and is the third most valuable crop in the United States. But because it is used primarily for dairy feed and is a few steps removed from the dinner plate, the general public does not often recognize its importance.”
If Putnam is biased in favor of Monsanto, we need to evaluate the accuracy of his RR gene flow comments. In your article there was talk about gene flow to feral alfalfa, hay to seed, hay to hay, and how bees would carry pollen from RR alfalfa to a non-GMO field. The truth is that honey bees do carry pollen and can carry it a long way, miles in fact.
Consider organic farmers (as I am) or anyone who doesn't want RR alfalfa. Say I plow under a hayfield in spring to plant corn and the plow doesn't kill a small percentage of plants. If my neighbor has an RR alfalfa field, it is likely that my volunteer alfalfa will be pollinated with RR pollen and go to seed.
So, next year when I seed down that field, RR alfalfa will be growing in it. For an organic producer, this is devastating. If tested, my hay would have the RR alfalfa gene in it and my hayfield would have to be torn up. According to USDA organic certification protocol, it would take 36 months before another organic crop could be harvested from that field.
What am I going to do? I am a dairy farmer and need hay to feed my cows. This situation is unacceptable.
Third, think about the history of GMOs. It didn't take long before RR soybeans took over the market. It is difficult to find conventional soybeans, and conventional farmers can't save seed harvested to plant without Monsanto attacking legally. Monsanto can seize any and all material containing its patented gene. So, if you don't buy Monsanto's alfalfa seed but the company happens to find some, you've violated patent law.
We need to be careful with RR technology. If RR alfalfa is reapproved for sale, it will be difficult for any farmer (or seed company) to be free of it. Remember, whoever controls the seed controls the farmer, and whoever controls the farmer controls the very food we eat.
- A Wisconsin organic dairyman and grower