On this issue, Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin and 74 colleagues are clearly smoking ditchweed. Their July 19 letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack urges USDA to permit the use of genetically modified Roundup-Ready alfalfa "while the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service completes its final Environmental Impact Study." Wait a minute: use it while the government completes the impact study? What?! Aren't we supposed to study the environmental impact before we turn these seeds loose on the environment?
Dakota War College, of course, doesn't really want anyone to stand against Monsanto. DWC surely isn't standing up for the organic farmers whose crops are threatened by genetic contamination from neighboring Monsanto crops. DWC never says boo about the public university in its backyard being controlled by a Monsanto employee; when South Dakotans protest the corruption of independent public research such corporate infiltration could cause, DWC makes fun of the South Dakotans. DWC will never stand up for the small farmers Monsanto is trying to put out of business with lawyers, lawsuits, and gross intimidation. DWC will never protest Monsanto's efforts to deny that the Agent Orange it produced ever harmed American soldiers or Vietnamese children.
And DWC most certainly does not care about the dangers Pat Trask points out about Monsanto's genetically modified alfala:
The genetically modified forage has the potential to destroy the certified organic and conventional alfalfa industry because it will genetically contaminate and alter those crops, according to Trask.
...When the USDA deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa, [Oregon alfalfa seed producer Phil] Geertson warned Trask that if its planting and production were not stopped, the production of conventional alfalfa seed industry and organic industry would be gone immediately and permanently.
Unlike other Roundup Ready crops, Roundup Ready alfalfa is a perennial plant that emerges every year. In addition, alfalfa relies on cross-pollination usually by bees or the wind to produce seed. Preventing the cross-pollination of Roundup Ready alfalfa with other alfalfa varieties is not realistic, according to Trask.
“Containment of gene flow is virtually impossible,” Trask said [Andrea Cook, "Frankenfood fight: Alfalfa grower opposes genetically engineered crop," Rapid City Journal, 2010.08.11].
(I have yet to meet a Trask I don't like.)
Trask understands that Monsanto's GM alfalfa is just another effort to monopolize the seed market for Big Ag. It will work just like other crops: farmers plant a little Monsanto alfala; it corss-pollinates with neighboring fields growing non-Monsanto alfalfa; then Monsanto sends in the lawyers to sue the pants off neighboring farmers for violating Monsanto's genetic patents—in other words, for committing the crime of growing plants without paying Monsanto for the privilege.
Another important point Herseth Sandlin misses: Monsanto's GM seed is bad for small farms. Farmers who want to protect themselves from genetic contamination and Monsanto's lawyer-goons will have to buy more land to insulate themselves from the GM fields. That's one more pressure that drives small farmers out of business. Gee, thanks, Stephanie.
DWC does at least provide some comment space for occasionally sensible folks like rancher and legislator Charlie Hoffman, who points out that Monsanto's alfalfa is just plain a bad buy: natural alfalfa can already withstand a fair amount of Roundup, so why incur the extra legal obligations of using Monsanto's product?
DWC carefully avoids comment on the actual issue of corporate domination of agriculture, but I won't: Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin is wrong to support Monsanto and genetically modified alfalfa that has not yet been properly assessed for environmental impact. And unlike DWC, if anyone can show me that the candidate from the other party is willing to take the right position on this issue, I will shout it from the rooftops. Candidate Noem, I await your press release on your opposition to authorizing the use of Monsanto's Roundup-Ready alfalfa.
Bonus head count: Signal #1 that Herseth Sandlin is on the wrong side of the alfalfa issue: the 75 Congresspeople urging Vilsack to permit Monsanto's alfalfa include teabaggers Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Their thin letter is all about business costs.
An opposing letter from 56 Congresspeople, including Senator Tester from Montana, Senator Feingold from Wisconsin, and Representative Kucinich from Ohio, makes a much more detailed argument about the scientific evidence that shows huge potential for genetic contamination (exactly what Monsanto wants) and harm to small and organic farms.