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Speaking Out Against the 40-Acres-and-A-Mule Folks PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Monday, 08 February 2010
AFF Sentinel Vol.7#4
Agricultural producers have a chance over the next week to speak out against the 40-acres-and- a-mule folks. Part of the game plan for these activist radicals is to destroy modern technology that boosts the productivity and efficiency of American agriculture that feeds us and much of the world.

These activists are absolutely clueless about real production agriculture, about business and about the long-term consequences of banning technology. Previous versions of technology and improved management staved off the prediction of world starvation rampant in the middle of the last century. Now, with even greater global population growth looming plus long-term growth of demand from growing global income, the activists want to return to the agriculture of the pre-Civil War era. They envision only bucolic, patchwork-quilt patterns of tiny fields tended by families with hoes and a mule. Increasing the risk of starvation in the world fazes them not a bit.

But producers can weigh in to help reclaim a technology benefit for one of the most important crops for food animals. In 2006, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against USDA-APHIS, challenging its decision to deregulate Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa, so that it could be grown and sold. Prior to ruling to deregulate RR alfalfa initially, APHIS conducted an extensive Environmental Assessment, evaluating whether the crop in question could have any significant environmental impact. APHIS determined RR alfalfa would have no significant environmental impact and, therefore, a much more extensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was not necessary and RR alfalfa was approved to grow and sell.

The Center for Food Safety is an activist group, founded by a disciple of food activist Jeremy Rifkin, dedicated to curbing the proliferation of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture.

In 2007, a federal district court in California vacated the APHIS ruling, ordered it to prepare a full EIS, and prohibited future planting or sale of RR alfalfa. That 1,476-page monster EIS the table of contents runs 11 pages was released in November, 2009. The EIS considered gene flow between RR alfalfa and non-genetically engineered alfalfa, as well as impacts on wildlife, herbicide use, plant species, socioeconomics, alfalfa markets, dairy and beef markets, trade, human health and safety, land use, production practices, soil, climate, air quality and water.

After all that analysis, APHIS again in a preliminary decision -- ruled that there is no significant impact on the human environment from RR alfalfa. After public comment and consideration of that comment, APHIS will release its final decision.

Readers can submit public comments until Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, explaining why they might think American agriculture needs this and future -- technological tools in order to operate profitably and efficiently and feed a growing world population. (Web link to submit comments below.)

Certainly, opposing groups will submit comments. The Organization for Competitive Markets, the group generally opposed to free market, capitalist competition, spent most of an afternoon of this years annual meeting calling for the abolition of biotechnology in seed, being particularly venomous regarding anything Monsanto. The concept of patents and marketing rules protecting intellectual property and branded seed technology is flatly unacceptable to these folks.

We noticed just recently that Monsanto has developed a sweet onion that can be grown in the U.S. in what is normally the off-season. The onion, called EverMild, was aimed at shoppers who want sweet onions year round. Ironically, the folks who dont want us to import out-of-season food are the same ones hoping to prohibit companies from developing domestic varieties to fill those out-of- season gaps using genetic technology.

Recently, we heard Colin Woodall, a key NCBA Washington lobbyist, recall visiting a member of Congress, hoping to get him to oppose horse slaughter legislation. The member pointed to a stack of letters a couple of inches high and then to another stack with one letter in it. The tall stack was letters favoring the legislation. The other was the lone letter opposing the legislation from NCBA. The member would vote with the biggest stack of letters.

A website by one seed genetics firm, Forage Genetics Inc. -- -- features a number of university research trials from five regions around the country. The trials looked at both yields and value differences from a weed-free crop. Croplan Genetics, another seed company who alerted us to this issue at NCBAs trade show, said trials showed yield increases of up to 0.9 tons/acre due to effective weed control. Increased profits and higher milk yields resulting form higher quality crops were demonstrated in some studies.

To reach the Federal eRulemaking Portal to Submit Comments, click here: (Roundup Ready Alfalfa is referred to as Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa)

To view or download a copy of the Environmental Impact Statement, click here:

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