Genetically Modified Organisms Are a Good Thing
I think genetically modified organisms like Roundup Ready alfalfa are a good thing.
GM alfalfa, like other GM organisms, helps farmers manage problems with weeds. Farmers don’t like to use more pesticides than they have to, because they’re expensive. That’s why I don’t buy the argument that GM alfalfa or other GM organisms serve as an excuse or enable farmers to use more pesticides.
There is weed resistance to GM organisms, but that doesn’t mean GMOs aren’t a good thing. There’s resistance to human antibiotics too, but they have still done a world of good. Did you know that genetically modified rice enables vitamin A to be absorbed by the body? Without that the vitamin A can’t be used, which means that rice isn’t meeting people’s nutritional needs. People around the world rely on rice as a staple, but without access to the right kind of vitamin A people can experience serious physical problems, such eye problems. Yet the organic folks have fought against GM rice, and as far as I know continue to do so.
Farmers are reacting to weed resistance by changing their weed management practices. For example, giving Roundup a rest for a year or two and replacing it with conventional pesticides in order to confuse the weeds.
There isn’t much drift with alfalfa because when it’s used as hay, it’s harvested before there are blooms. It “drifts” when it’s pollinated by bees, but obviously it can’t be pollinated before there are flowers. There are a few places, mostly out west, where alfalfa is grown for seeds, and drift can happen there because the plants are allowed to flower. From what I understand, in those places special precautions are taken to minimize drift.
APHIS, which is the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, has posted documents about the GM alfalfa issue at www.aphis.usda.gov.