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Organic Valley: GMO Alfalfa Will Devastate Organic Dairy Industry
4/18/2007

LA FARGE, Wis., April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Organic Valley farmers are joining the Center for Food Safety in a fight against the sale of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) alfalfa seed. Products certified under the USDA Organic seal cannot be genetically modified, and GM alfalfa drift threatens the integrity of certified-organic alfalfa crops, says the organic farmer-owned cooperative.

"Consumers respect and trust what the USDA organic seal represents, which includes no GMOs," said Organic Valley CEO George Siemon. "If the seal no longer represents a GMO-free product, the integrity of the seal will be greatly compromised and consumers may no longer choose organic products. The organic dairy industry is now at approximately $1.4 billion in sales. GM alfalfa drift would severely impact the market for our farmers' products."

The Center for Food Safety recently won a lawsuit filed in northern California finding the USDA illegally approved GM alfalfa without conducting the required Environmental Impact Statement. A judge in the Federal Northern District ordered a preliminary injunction, stopping the sale of GM alfalfa seed. Monsanto and Forage Genetics, developers of the seed, are arguing against a permanent injunction, which is now being sought by the Center for Food Safety.

"The USDA cannot ensure GMO alfalfa can be grown without cross-contaminating other crops, so it should not be allowed and it is not needed. Farmers have been growing alfalfa successfully for a hundred years," continued Siemon.

In the Declaration in Support of a Permanent Injunction against the sales of GMO Alfalfa, Siemon is explicit about the problem. The 975 dairy and livestock farmers of Organic Valley "feed their animals an all-organic diet that is on average 60 percent alfalfa. Each cow eats approximately 32.5 pounds of certified organic alfalfa a day." Siemon goes on to say "contamination of organic alfalfa stands or seed stock will devastate the organic farmers who market milk."

"Alfalfa is a perennial with a three-mile pollination radius, so farm buffers won't work," explains Fred Kirschenmann, Iowa Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow and a farmer in North Dakota. "It is impossible to contain."

"We still don't know the long term effect of GM crops on the health of animals and people," Kirschenmann adds. "It took us 40 years to find out that CFCs were blowing a hole in the ozone."

Organic feed is already expensive and in short supply, and if organic alfalfa becomes contaminated by GM alfalfa, it would greatly compound the feed shortage, according to Siemon. Organic dairy farmers in the United States need approximately 450,000 tons of certified organic alfalfa annually to feed their organic cows.

"If farmers can't source adequate organic feed, they will not be able to produce organic milk," Siemon said.

In addition, if GM Alfalfa is allowed, organic farmers will be forced to test at great expense. Each test can range from $179-$259.

The concern over GM crops and food is fueled by U.S. organic consumers who have expressed skepticism over genetically modified crops, which are banned in Europe. This concern is reflected in a 2006 Hartman Group study, "Organic 2006: Consumer Attitudes & Behavior," which showed one of the primary reasons organic consumers buy organic food is to avoid genetically modified products.

Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative: Independent and Farmer-Owned

Organic Valley Family of Farms is America's largest and oldest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 975 farmers in 27 states and one Canadian province and realized a record $334 million in 2006 sales. Focused on its founding mission of keeping family farmers farming, the cooperative produces 200 organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice. Its sister brand, Organic Prairie ( http://www.organicprairie.com/ ), produces delicious organic pork, beef, chicken and turkey. Look for Organic Valley and Organic Prairie in leading supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. For more information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit http://www.organicvalley.coop/ .

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Source: Organic Valley


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