Guest Commentary

The Problem with Roundup Ready Alfalfa

By Rob Jones

Round-Up Ready alfalfa?  When I first heard about this I was puzzled why a company would risk so much investment in a crop that is characterized by taking care of itself when it comes to weeds.  Sure it takes a while to get it established, but cover-cropping, extra care weeding before planting, planting into stubble, nurse cropping, can all help minimize weed pressure while getting started.

As for prolonging alfalfa stands, I think there is a misconception that weeds kill out alfalfa.  If an alfalfa stand begins to thin, it’s because of soil imbalances, not weeds, otherwise weeds would take over immediately.

Honestly, contamination is a serious issue. So what is the answer to the dilemma?

Initially the USDA chose not to do an Environmental Impact Study (contrary to their own guidelines) but eventually was forced to do one after being ordered by a judge.  One of the problems cited by the study was the risk of seed contamination.  In commercial fields there probably isn’t a huge risk, however in seed producing areas “huge risk” doesn’t begin to describe it.

If the permit for Round-Up Ready alfalfa seed is approved with planting restrictions, many groups, including AFBF, are already decrying restrictions as “undue hardships” on GMO growers with no mention of the same “hardships” on the non-GMO seed grower.

Lets think about this. If Round-Up Ready seed can contaminate non-GMO seed fields, can’t the reverse happen as well?  A farmer surely doesn’t want what he thinks is a Round-Up Ready crop, to have glyphosate sprayed on it, and lose part of it because his seed was contaminated with nearby organic seed.

It seems if anyone would want planting restrictions, it would be the purchaser of Round-Up Ready seed.

Rob Jones is President of the Alamosa County Farm Bureau. He raises grass fed beef and organic potatoes in Hooper, CO.


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