The USDA first approved genetically engineered (GE) Roundup-Ready alfalfa in 2005, amid controversy. Two years later a federal court ruled that GE alfalfa planting must cease until the USDA conducted a full environmental review. Alfalfa, a perennial grass, will produce for about five years, and the plants already growing were allowed to remain. Final Environmental Impact Statement in hand, the USDA fully deregulated GE alfalfa in 2011.
A few months after deregulation, the USDA began a study on transgenic contamination. The results, published in December 2015, found GE contamination in 27% of the studied feral alfalfa stands. Non-GMO and organic alfalfa farmers have lost millions of dollars due to contamination. Since 2011 GE alfalfa planting has exploded, accounting for 30% of alfalfa seeds purchased today. This study clearly shows that the USDA’s coexistence policy has failed. But the USDA is merely calling for more research, insisting GE contamination must be addressed by the market.