Why the big fuss about Alfalfa?
According to Sam Fromartz, author of the 2006 book Organic, Inc. consequences that we may see in our food supply as this genetically modified livestock feed is introduced include:
1. Less organic forage crops. Why would any farmer plant organic alfalfa when he knows a farmer nearby is planting GM alfalfa? Not only will his costs be higher in terms of cultivating an organic crop, but the possibility now exists that the crop will not be organic once it’s harvested. So why bother?
2. Fewer organic dairy farmers. Organic dairy farmers plant alfalfa in fields where their cows graze, but they may also buy hay for winter. With fewer sources of organic forages, costs for organic dairy farmers will rise. What’s the smartest decision here: Reduce your risk by avoiding the organic market altogether. Or maybe buy your organic forage crops from China, as we’ve seen with soybeans.
3. Higher prices for organic consumers. If the supply of organic forages falls, the cost will rise. Organic dairy farmers will either be squeezed and go under or organic milk prices will rise. The impact: higher prices at the checkout counter for moms and dads buying organic milk for their kids. (Or maybe we’ll see more imports of organic milk powder from nations with stricter GM controls to keep the market going.)
4. Less investment in organic meat. Organic meat has been a fast growing sector of the market, but why would anyone invest in this business if you could be disqualified by contaminated feed? The rational business decision would be to ignore the U.S. and invest in organic operations outside the U.S. — Uruguay anyone?
5. Fewer conventional export opportunities. The contamination of rice fields by GM test plots in Louisiana led to multimillion dollar law suits. Why? Conventional rice farmers lost markets in countries that didn’t want to import GM rice. The same could be true of forages — that is, unless the U.S. is successful in getting the rest of the world to buy GM crops as the State Department is trying to do.