Washington, D.C.—In opposition to recently deregulated genetically modified (GM) crops, a lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice. Anti-GM crop activists gather at a rally held on March 26 in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. Local events were also held around the country for those who could not make it to the rally.

At issue was the January 27, 2011 decision by the USDA to deregulate GM alfalfa and sugar beets, allowing these GM organisms (GMOs) to be planted and sold to the American public. This decision caused an overwhelming negative response from those involved in the non-GMO, organic and natural products industries.

CFS and Earthjustice believe the USDA’s deregulation of GMOs is unlawful and will cause many more toxic herbicides to legally be released into the environment. They feel GMOs are not only detrimental to the earth, but also to human health. This will be the second time that the USDA has been sued for its approval of the Roundup Ready alfalfa.

In addition, the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit on March 30 in New York, NY against again biotech firm Monsanto (maker of Roundup Ready herbicide-resistant seeds) on behalf of 270,000 plaintiffs. According to N.J. Jaeger of the Institute of Responsible Technology, the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto lawsuit “challenges the very ‘usefulness’ of the GM seed product (a requirement for patents) and calls for protection for organic farmers from ‘being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed,’ states the PUBPAT foundation.”

The “Right to Know” rally focused on the fact that many GMO are not labeled as such, creating confusion and causing some Americans anger over the fact that they cannot tell if what they are eating is all natural. According to a recent MSNBC poll, 96% of those polled wanted GMO products to be labeled. There is also a fear, among supporters of the natural products industry, that if GM alfalfa and sugar beets are deregulated, they will wind up contaminating natural and organic alfalfa and sugar beets. That can happen when bees that are pollinating the alfalfa cross mix the plants. In that case, there would be no way to tell whether or not the produce you are eating is, indeed, natural.

Just one day prior to the event, nearly 6,000 people had liked the rally’s Facebook event page. The page stated that the rally’s mission is to “Spread awareness of genetically modified foods and Monsanto's increasing monopoly of our foods.”

As of press time, the USDA has not publicly commented on the lawsuit or the rally.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, May 2011