GMOs gone wild

USDA green-lights unrestricted planting of GMO alfalfa to dismay of organic farmers

Money talks.

Money talks.

Vilsack green-lights GMOs
On Jan. 27 the USDA approved the unrestricted planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa, developed by übercorporation Monsanto. Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant GM seeds are used hand in hand with Roundup, the corporation’s widely known weed-killer.

This is disappointing news for organic farmers, who held out hope that USDA chief Tom Vilsack would seek a stricter policy on GMO (the “O” is for organism) regulation. Alfalfa, especially, is a problem for non-GMO farmers as its ability to pollinate from afar threatens the certification of organic growers.

“It’s unfortunate that the USDA, Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration continue to support Monsanto and corporate agribusiness over the wishes of the people,” offered Matthew Martin of Chico CSA Pyramid Farms. “The USDA had proposed planting guidelines that some people thought were somewhat reasonable, then under pressure from Monsanto reversed their position.”

Organic orchardist Carl Rosato, of Oroville’s Woodleaf Farm, said, “From the beginning of GMOs, I believed they would wreak havoc on our environment. It is possible to create good uses for GMOs like adding a needed mineral to the food, but it’s almost always for using more damaging chemicals that the corporation owns.”

Organic farmer Tyson Heusser, owner of Gridley-based Green Beginnings CSA, weighed in: “Monsanto is a chemical company. … The more seed they can develop that forces farmers to become reliant on the use of their sprays, the bigger and stronger they become. I will just continue to do my part and provide as many educated individuals with good, healthy produce and to continue to be a steward to the land I operate and hope this major wrongdoing will get ironed out before it is out of control.”

“Saw a Bioneers video last night … featuring Stonyfield Organic Yogurt founder [Gary Hirshberg],” said local food-system activist Richard Roth. “Monsanto was mentioned as spending over half of all lobbying monies since the last election. Seems they own the USDA.”

Catlett tidbits
Widely known ag economist Dr. Lowell Catlett gave a talk at Chico State on Feb. 3 titled “The Next Green Revolution.”

Catlett focused on ways that the ag industry can continue to be profitable by becoming more green. The New Mexico cotton industry, he offered, has remained commercially viable by using a more selective application of nitrogen, making the soil and crops healthier.

In response to a question about monoculture farming versus crop diversification, Catlett said he would tell a monocrop farmer, “Hey, if you’re making money on that crop, keep on truckin’. There’s nothing wrong with monoculture, absolutely not in the least.” Many organic farmers would beg to differ.

Adopt an owl
“Are you looking for a unique Valentine’s gift that will impress your sweetie?” asks Dawn Garcia, whose work with the adorable Northern saw-whet owl (pictured) was written about in these pages late last year (see “Netting the Saw-whet,” Nov. 4, 2010). Check out Altacal Audubon Society’s new Adopt-an-Owl program.

For a $30 tax-deductible donation, you will receive a frameable certificate with a photo of and information about your adopted owl.

“Your gift goes to supporting research aimed at discovering the mysteries of our local Northern Saw-whet owl population,” Garcia said. Go to for info.