Congressional Leaders Ask Vilsack to Allow Farmers to Plant Biotech Alfalfa

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Tuesday, July 20, 2010) - A letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from 75 Members of Congress asks that farmers be allowed to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA) in the fall 2010 planting season.  

The June 21, 2010, decision by the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a nationwide ban on the cultivation of biotech alfalfa, but remanded the case back to the District Court.  Depending on the District Court’s decision, USDA can then decide what interim measures can be implemented while the agency completes its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  

The letter points out that the USDA’s draft EIS concluded that there is “no significant impact on the human environment due to granting non-regulated status to Roundup Ready alfalfa.”  A partial deregulation would allow farmers to plant their inventoried RRA seed this fall while the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) completes its final environmental impact study.

Under the leadership of Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the letter was signed by 75 Members of Congress including House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) along with 25 additional Agriculture Committee Members.  

“We applaud Representatives Jenkins, Herger and Courtney and all the Members who signed the letter asking that farmers be allowed to plant biotech alfalfa this fall,” said Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry organization (BIO).  “These leaders want to protect the rights of farmers who choose to grow Roundup Ready alfalfa, and who want access to the benefits that biotechnology can provide.”

According to the letter, it has been estimated that farmers have lost more than $250 million in revenue from not being able to utilize RRA during the EIS process, and they will face significant additional losses if they are not allowed to plant their inventoried seed during the fall 2010 planting season.  

“RRA dramatically reduces the need for chemical application and other high-cost methods of weed control, thus increasing efficiency and significantly lowering operating costs,” the letter says.  “The efficiencies of RRA led to higher yields and higher field quality that resulted in an annual revenue increase of approximately $100 per acre.” 

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