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USDA's Decision Thursday on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa -- Leahy and DeFazio Warn About USDA Decision Lifting All Protections for Organic and Conventional Farmers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following are the comments of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) on USDA's announcement Thursday that the agency will completely remove current regulations that limit use of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa, a key commodity in dairy farming, including organic dairy farming, making alfalfa the first perennial GE crop approved for widespread planting. Leahy and DeFazio have led congressional efforts to limit the threat to organic farmers of widely introducing "Roundup Ready" genetically engineered alfalfa. The two lawmakers last June headed a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking that alfalfa's regulated status be retained in USDA's pending rulemaking on GE alfalfa. Leahy and DeFazio also are the co-authors of the 1990 legislation that created the national organic standards and labeling program and continue to champion the growth and success of the U.S. organic industry.

Joint Statement

Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

And Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)

On USDA's Decision On Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"This long approval process began as a search for a workable compromise, but it has ended as a surrender to business as usual for the biotech industry. USDA officials had an opportunity to address the concerns of all farmers, whether they choose to farm genetically altered crops, conventional crops, or organic crops, and to find a way for them to coexist. Instead, what we now have is a setback for the nation's organic and conventional agriculture sectors. Instead of settling this issue, USDA's decision regrettably guarantees further rounds in the courts.

"This is a big payday for the giant firms that pushed for this rollback. Unfortunately, consumers and hardworking farmers who choose not to use these genetically engineered crops will be handed the tab. Organic feed already is expensive and in short supply. This will compound that problem while creating many more.

"America's biotech industry and organic agriculture can coexist and thrive, but only if there are clear rules to referee their conflicting needs and interests."

SOURCE Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
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