You’ll hear the biotechnology industry say that Roundup Ready alfalfa will not impact organic markets and that export countries have already approved the GE variety for import. The reality on the ground is quite different, as the story below highlights.
This article is re-posted from OCIA’s Research and Education Newsletter.
Blaine Schmaltz Story: Former Organic Alfalfa Seed Grower
In the spring of 2006, Blaine Schmaltz of North Central North Dakota, found himself with a whole lot of organic alfalfa seed on its way to Korea, when a policy was put into place where any country with round-up ready alfalfa could not ship overseas. Schmaltz shares his story, so that other organic farmers won’t be caught in the same situation.
One main concern arising from the Roundup Ready alfalfa fields that have been popping up around Schmaltz, is the potential for the engineered gene that makes them tolerant to glyphosate to be carried many miles over to organic alfalfa fields, through natural and environmental conditions.
According to Schmaltz, an 800 number is now offered by The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for all organic farmers, as a result of this court case. Just dial 1-866-724-6408 and provide your 911 address. APHIS will then provide you with the mile proximity of Roundup Ready alfalfa fields near your farm.
APHIS is a multi-faceted agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. These efforts support the overall mission of the USDA.
According to Schmaltz, they still have a hold on countries with round-up ready alfalfa. The courts revisited this issue in April, but have not announced the results yet. The sugar beet industry has fallen into a similar situation.
So, whatever happened to Schmaltz’s shipment of organic alfalfa seed that was stopped on the shores and was required to be shipped back to him? Over the last four years, he’s been able to sell it through local seed markets. As for now, Schmaltz no longer grows organic alfalfa seeds.
Blaine Schmaltz operates just under 3,000 acres of certified organic land in North Central North Dakota. He raises cereal grains, wheat, oats, barley, flax seed, peas, edible beans, rye, buckwheat and more. Schmaltz has been certified through ICS, since 1996.