FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FROM THE NATIONAL COOPERATIVE GROCERS ASSOCIATION (NCGA)
NEW ORGANIC PASTURE RULE EMBRACED BY ORGANIC COMMUNITY; HEIGHTENS NEED TO STOP GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ALFALFA
Tell USDA “No” to GE Alfalfa:
USDA extends commenting period until March 3
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Feb. 16, 2010 – The new USDA pasture rule has been widely embraced by the organic community and greatly strengthens the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal. This is an important change that should be celebrated by the organizations and consumers across the country who commented on the issue and made it clear that consumers expect that organic livestock have access to pasture. Your voice does count!
And, we can do more. The new ruling also heightens the need to stop the USDA’s proposed deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. Such deregulation may result in the permanent contamination of organic grazing fields.
National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), a business services co-operative for 112 natural food co-ops nationwide, opposes the deregulation of GE alfalfa and encourages consumers nationwide to tell the USDA they oppose the allowance of GE alfalfa into the nation’s food supply. A public commenting period, originally set to expire Feb. 16, has been extended to March 3.
“The new rule provides clarity on the pasture requirements for organic livestock. It is a huge win for organic farmers and producers in that it strengthens the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal and increases consumer confidence in organic products,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer for NCGA. “Yet, the proposed deregulation of GE alfalfa is poised to undermine these gains by making organic pastures very difficult to maintain.”
The new organic pasture rule establishes grazing access requirements for organic animal producers. NCGA strongly supports the new pasture rule as it ensures organic animals are raised on pasture and given access to the outdoors. Yet, the pasture rules make organic producers of meat, milk, eggs and other animal products more vulnerable to the deregulation of GE alfalfa.
The increased risk is due to the presence of alfalfa in most organic pastures and the likelihood that GE alfalfa would cross-pollinate and contaminate organic pasture – consequently contaminating the organic food source for certified organic livestock. The USDA requires that all organic livestock be fed a diet of organic, non-GE feed.
On Dec. 14, 2009, the USDA released its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. The EIS was produced by the USDA in response to a court decision demanding more thorough analysis of the potential environmental, economic and health impacts of GE alfalfa before approving deregulation. This is the first time the USDA has ever completed an EIS on a GE crop.
“The resulting EIS lacked true scrutiny and concern regarding the possible contamination of the organic food industry,” added Liana Hoodes, Director of the National Organic Coalition, a national alliance of organizations, including NCGA, who work to provide a “Washington voice” for organic agriculture. “It fails to fully consider the full range of potential impacts on small farmers, organic consumers and human and environmental health. Fortunately, as with the pasturing standards review, USDA is allowing for consumers to voice their opinions.”
NCGA urges consumers to speak out during the newly extended commenting period ending on March 3. “We strongly encourage consumers to voice their opinions to the USDA to underscore their opposition to this deregulation, in protection of farmers, the USDA Organic Seal, the land and their own food choices,” Shrader concluded. After the comment period, the USDA will vote for full or partial approval of GE alfalfa. A full approval would allow GE alfalfa to be grown and sold without restriction. A partial approval means GE alfalfa could only be grown under permit from the USDA, as is currently allowed.
About National Cooperative Grocers Association
National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), founded in 1999, is a business services cooperative for consumer-owned food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCGA is owned by 112 food co-ops operating more than 140 stores in 32 states with combined annual sales of over $1 billion. NCGA helps unify natural food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power, and ultimately offer more value to natural food co-op shoppers everywhere. Additionally, NCGA is a winner of the dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence in recognition of the application of cooperative values and principles to drive cooperative and business success. For a map of co-op member locations, visit www.ncga.coop. To learn more about co-ops, visit www.go.coop.
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