Farm Bureau and growers weigh the potential of GMO crops
Alfalfa growers considering an additional tool to help bring in a harvest are concerned about possible export bans from lucrative markets currently buying Imperial County produce.
Roundup Ready alfalfa is a crop with genetically modified organisms engineered into the seed. Roundup Ready first introduced by the Monsanto Co. in soybeans, is also used in cotton, corn and canola. It allows the crops to have a built-in tolerance to the Roundup Ready herbicide.
China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
“The issue is: if Farmer A sells a crop to a country that accepts Roundup Ready, that’s OK,” Dale said. “But if a neighboring farmer grows conventional crops, his field may be contaminated by the first farmer. And he runs the risk of not being able to export to countries not accepting Roundup Ready crops.”
Alfalfa hay and seed growers as well as exporters discussed the future of alfalfa in the county at Monday’s Farm Bureau meeting. The bureau does not take a position but has definite concerns about the export business, Dale said.
Four years ago Imperial County alfalfa growers did not export to the countries with a ban in place, Jeff Plourd of El Toro Exports said. But up to 40 percent of the alfalfa crop is sold to China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. This has become a major market for Imperial Valley farmers, Plourd noted.
“It doesn’t preclude us from shipping Roundup Ready alfalfa to market,” Plourd said. “It’s up to the farmer to decide, but he’ll have problems shipping to these countries.”
Plourd says he is not really concerned with contamination. It could be more of an issue with seed growers but major markets, such as Japan, have accepted Roundup Ready technology. Although Imperial County sells to Japan, it is selling much more to the UAE and China, he said.
Kevin Grizzle is a local grower of conventional alfalfa hay and seed for export. He says his major concern is “countries that do not allow (genetically modified organisms), period.”
“I don’t want contaminated crops because those countries may reject all hay from the county and hurt the farm economy in the Valley,” Grizzle said.
Contamination can occur when honey bees carry pollen from Roundup Ready crops to conventional ones in neighboring farms, he explained. Studies have shown bees can carry pollen up to five miles away, he added. It can be especially harmful to organic farmers. Their produce often sells for more money and they can lose substantially.
But Grizzle says he supports GMO crops and wants just a temporary ban on them in Imperial County until they are more widely accepted for export.
“There are lots of good benefits from GMO crops,” Grizzle said. “They could help feed Africa and they would be good for the economy.”