By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 – Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., has joined the rapidly building storm over USDA's decision Thursday to deregulate genetically engineered (GE) (or GM, genetically modified) alfalfa. Voicing strong support for full deregulation rather than USDA's “third option” of placing geographic restrictions on planting , Lugar said:

Currently seed varieties in the U.S. are approved for safety under a rigorous scientific approach. The USDA proposed deviation from this approach would have thrown into question our farmers’ ability to continue to grow more food on the same number of acres and set a terrible precedent for other nations to follow. I strongly support farmer and consumer choice in planting or purchasing food grown with GM technology, conventionally, or organically. This proposal could have negated those options by significantly restricting planting choices through government control.”

Lugar's office noted that in a recent discussion with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Lugar “stressed the importance of keeping political rhetoric out of the science-based approach to regulation of genetically mod foods.”

The success in applying modern technology to mankind’s oldest challenge, getting enough to eat, owes much to the United States’ rigorous, science-based regulatory system,” Lugar said. “All proposals for the use of genetic modification in plants or animals in the U.S. must go through objective scientific testing for safety before they are approved, insulated from political or commercial pressures and I am pleased the USDA has decided to maintain this process.”

Lugar concluded that “For the sake of our consumers, our farmers, our environment and our economy, as well as for future global food security, I applaud the department’s decision to stick with the science-based regulation of biotech crops that has served us so well.”

For Stewart Doan's audio report on reactions, click HERE. Conventional alfalfa growers will go to court to reverse GE alfalfa deregulation. To read USDA's 17-page “Record of Decision” on Roundup Ready GE alfalfa, click HERE. For more on Vilsack's decision, click HERE. For support from Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas, click HERE. For details of the USDA deregulation plan, click HERE.

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