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POLICY & REGULATION: Opponents gear up for court fight after USDA approves GE alfalfa



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   BATTLES REMAIN FOR BIOTECH ALFALFA

SOURCE:  Capital Press, USA

AUTHOR:  Mateusz Perkowski

URL:     http://www.capitalpress.com/lvstk/mp-alfalfa-deregulation-020411

DATE:    03.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Biotech opponents are spoiling for another court battle over genetically engineered alfalfa now that the USDA has lifted all restrictions on the controversial crop. The Center for Food Safety, which helped convince a federal judge to halt most production of the crop in 2007, has vowed to challenge the legality of full deregulation. Andrew Kimbrell, the group?s executive director, cautioned farmers against buying genetically engineered alfalfa seeds."

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BATTLES REMAIN FOR BIOTECH ALFALFA

Opponents gear up for court fight after USDA approves crop

Biotech opponents are spoiling for another court battle over genetically engineered alfalfa now that the USDA has lifted all restrictions on the controversial crop.

The Center for Food Safety, which helped convince a federal judge to halt most production of the crop in 2007, has vowed to challenge the legality of full deregulation.

Andrew Kimbrell, the group?s executive director, cautioned farmers against buying genetically engineered alfalfa seeds.

?Within a short period of time, they may be illegal to plant,? he said.

In 2007, a judge required the USDA to conduct an environmental impact statement, or EIS, analyzing the crop?s effects before it could be re-commercialized.

Kimbrell claims the agency has fallen short of its legal obligations.

?His order was to take a hard look at gene flow, the economic impact on farmers and the creation of superweeds,? he said. ?They have failed to do their homework.?

The USDA did an exhaustive job of studying the crop, so its review is unlikely to contain any critical errors that would prompt the judge to again block production, said Mark McCaslin, president of Forage Genetics International.

The company is licensed to market the crop under an agreement with Monsanto, which developed the ?Roundup Ready? trait.

The biotech trait is aimed at simplifying weed control. Farmers can spray their fields with glyphosate herbicides, killing weeds without damaging the crop.

The USDA initially deregulated the crop in 2005, but some conventional alfalfa seed producers and environmental groups filed a legal complaint against the agency, claiming the decision was unlawful.

In 2007, a federal judge agreed and issued an injunction that halted plantings of genetically engineered alfalfa until the EIS was complete.

Cultivation of Roundup Ready alfalfa remained restricted despite a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that overturned the injunction last year. The ruling kept the crop under regulated status until USDA decided on the terms for deregulation.

When the final version of the study was released in December 2010, the agency was still thinking about limiting the crop?s cultivation.

The USDA has decided that it lacks the regulatory authority to continue imposing restrictions on the crop, since the EIS determined Roundup Ready alfalfa doesn?t pose a plant pest risk.

McCaslin said he?s relieved USDA decided against subjecting the crop to restrictions that would put 20 percent of U.S. alfalfa acreage off-limits to the technology.

?It would have been a can of worms,? he said.

Despite the time-consuming obstacles confronted by Roundup Ready alfalfa, Monsanto has not backed off from developing new biotech traits for the crop, said Steve Welker, the firm?s commercial alfalfa lead.

?It has not scared us away,? he said, noting that Monsanto will next try to commercialize biotech alfalfa with reduced lignin, which will make the forage and hay easier for livestock to digest.

Welker wouldn?t speculate about the precedent this case may have set within the USDA, such as an increased likelihood the agency will subject biotech crops to an EIS before deregulation.

?The direction they go from here, we don?t know,? he said.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   WE STAND UNITED IN OPPOSITION TO GE ALFALFA

SOURCE:  Rodale Institute, USA

AUTHOR:  Amanda Kimble-Evans

URL:     http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/20110201_we-stand-united-in-opposition-to-ge-alfalfa

DATE:    01.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Organic community converges to protect the integrity of our food. Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture unleashed genetically engineered alfalfa when they approved it for completely unrestricted deregulation. Talk of ?coexistance? involving levying restrictions on GE alfalfa and giving government oversight of the frankencrops turned out to be what amounted to a bait-and-switch."

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WE STAND UNITED IN OPPOSITION TO GE ALFALFA

Organic community converges to protect the integrity of our food.

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture unleashed genetically engineered alfalfa when they approved it for completely unrestricted deregulation. Talk of ?coexistance? involving levying restrictions on GE alfalfa and giving government oversight of the frankencrops turned out to be what amounted to a bait-and-switch. The problems with GE alfalfa in brief:

* Cross-pollination could contaminate organic alfalfa fields as well as conventionally farmed but non-GE alfalfa fields within five years.

* As a forage crop for livestock, contaminated alfalfa also means contaminated milk and beef.

* Alfalfa is a perennial crop pollinated by insects and bees, and has been known to travel huge distances, even growing wild near roads.

* Roundup, the carcinogenic pesticide the alfalfa is modified to resist, has been linked to hormone disruption, birth defects, infertility, plant diseases and micronutrient deficiencies.

* Plus, 11 million acres of farmland already contain Roundup resistant weeds in 2010, meaning we?re modifying alfalfa to be used with a weed killer that doesn?t even work.

The official environmental impact statement actually claimed the public doesn?t care if their alfalfa is genetically modified, using this as a reason to release the GE crop unrestricted. GE sugar beets are close on the heals of alfalfa as next in line to be rushed through the system and onto fields across the country.

Speak out now for freedom of choice and demand organic (protected and pure)! A coalition of business, trade groups, activists and thought leaders released the following statement. See the links at the end of the letter for how to add your voice to the others in opposition to GE alfalfa.

WE STAND UNITED IN OPPOSITION TO GE ALFALFA

We stand united in opposition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s (USDA) decision to once again allow unlimited, nationwide commercial planting of Monsanto?s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers.

Last spring more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the USDA highly critical of the substance and conclusions of its draft EIS on GE Alfalfa. Instead of responding to these comments and concerns, including expert comments from farmers, scientists, academics, conservationists, and food safety and consumer advocates, the USDA has chosen instead to listen to a handful of agricultural biotechnology companies.

USDA?s decision to allow unlimited, nationwide commercial planting of Monsanto?s GE Roundup Ready alfalfa without any restrictions flies in the face of the interests of conventional and organic farmers, preservation of the environment, and consumer choice. USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops and its decision to appease the few companies who seek to benefit from this technology comes despite increasing evidence that GE alfalfa will threaten the rights of American farmers and consumers, as well as damage the environment.

The Center for Food Safety will be suing on this decision.

In the coming months, we will be seeing USDA proposals to allow unrestricted plantings of GE sugar beets, and GE corn and soy crops designed to resist toxic pesticides, such as 2-4D and Dicamba, highly toxic pesticides that pose a serious threat to our health and the environment. To win these critical and difficult battles, the entire organic community, and our allies in the conventional food and farming community, will have to work together.

Now is the time to unite in action. We need to work together to restore sanity to our food system, stop the deregulation of GE crops and join together against the forces that are seeking to silence hundreds of thousands of Americans.

As we move forward, we are united in opposing genetically engineered organisms in food production and believe that pressure to stop the proliferation of this contaminating technology must be focused on the White House and Congress. The companies responsible for this situation are the biotech companies whose GE technology causes genetic drift and environmental hazards that are not contained as the deregulation of genetically engineered alfalfa goes forward. The organic community stands together with consumer, farmer, environmental and business interests to ensure practices that are protective of health and the environment.

We urge you to join us today.

Sign up to receive [Center for Food Safety] action alerts.

Consider making a donation to the [Center for Food Safety?s] legal effort ahead.

Let the White House know that you do not support the deregulation of GE alfalfa.

Sincerely,

Christine Bushway, Organic Trade Association; Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides; Michael Funk, United Natural Foods Inc (UNFI); Elizabeth Henderson, NOFA Interstate Council; Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm; Liana Hoodes, National Organic Coalition; Kristina Hubbard, Organic Seed Alliance; Faye Jones, Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service; Robby Kenner, Robert Kenner Films; Andrew Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety; Russell Libby, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (MOFGA); Ed Maltby, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA); Robyn O?Brien, Allergy Kids; Keith Olcott, Equal Exchange; Maria Rodale, Rodale Inc.; Eric Schlosser, Author; Robynn Schrader, National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA); George Siemon, Organic Valley; Michael Sligh, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI); Megan Westgate, Non-GMO Project; Maureen Wilmot, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF); Enid Wonnacott, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT)



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   MAKING HAY IS AS MESSY AS MAKING SAUSAGES: DEREGULATING GE ALFALFA

SOURCE:  Community Alliance for Global Justice, USA

AUTHOR:  Phil Bereano

URL:     http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/2011/02/making-hay-is-as-messy-as-making-sausages-deregulating-ge-alfalfa/

DATE:    01.02.2011

SUMMARY: "At the end of January, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service unit of the US Department of Agriculture announced that it would fully deregulate the planting of GE alfalfa, despite its Environmental Impact Statement conclusion that such a course of action might lead to genetic contamination. To many observers, this appears to be in direct contravention to its obligations under law and court decisions. [...] ?Partial de-regulation ? is a faulty and misleading concept as regards the ecology of bioengineered plants. It does not prevent any of the potential harms from GE crops but seems to suggest that on a small enough scale they are tolerable. Tolerable to whom? Small environmental perturbations can lead to large impacts."

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MAKING HAY IS AS MESSY AS MAKING SAUSAGES: DEREGULATING GE ALFALFA

Phil Bereano is a co-founder of AGRA Watch and also of the Washington Biotechnology Action Council; he has been active on issues of biotech policy since the early 1980s, locally, nationally and internationally.

At the end of January, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) unit of the US Department of Agriculture announced that it would fully deregulate the planting of GE alfalfa, despite its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conclusion that such a course of action might lead to genetic contamination. To many observers, this appears to be in direct contravention to its obligations under law and court decisions.

In response to a law suit brought by the Center for Food Safety, a 2007 trial judge found that the Department had not done a proper EIS; included was a finding that alfalfa farmers had established a reasonable probability that their conventional alfalfa crops would be contaminated with the engineered Roundup Ready gene if USDA were allowed to fully de-regulate GE alfalfa. The decision recognized that the substantial risk of such contamination was damage which would support a legal action, and the judge issued an order prohibiting the planting or deregulation of genetically engineered alfalfa. It directed the USDA to do a complete EIS and to adopt a course of action which would minimize injuries. The Supreme Court in 2010 overturned the planting ban, but did not restore the Department?s approval of GE alfalfa; thus, planting was still not legally allowable.

Congress held two hearings in 2010, in which the agency was criticized for these failures, and over 200,000 citizen comments were filed, mostly objecting to the Department?s plans.

The Department?s final environmental review, issued on Dec. 23, 2010, again concludes, in effect, that there will be no substantial harm from biotech alfalfa! As a part of this environmental impact analysis, USDA proposed three options for action: 1) No deregulation of GE alfalfa; 2) complete deregulation of GE alfalfa; or 3) partial deregulation of alfalfa with certain government mandated measures to segregate GE production from organic production. Under NEPA the public is granted a 30-day period of public review, which ended in late January. It was clear that the Department would reject option (1), since no GE crops have been subjected to regulation.

Most critics believed that USDA would seek ?partial de-regulation,? including mandatory conditions such as prohibiting the planting of GE alfalfa in certain parts of the country, and establishing buffer zones between GE and organic production sites. This would, in reality, allow contamination. And contamination has long been an industry-government strategy for forcing acceptance of GE. (As Emmy Simmons, assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said to me after the cameras stopped rolling on a vigorous debate we had on South Africa TV in 2002, ?In four years, enough GE crops will have been planted in South Africa that the pollen will have contaminated the entire continent.?)

There is no such concept in US law as ?partial de-regulation.? Either the crop is regulated?according to an assessment in a full Environmental Impact Statement as ordered by the Court?or it is not. As the agency itself notes, ?The supplemental request that APHIS received from Monsanto/KWS did not clearly explain what the petitioners mean or envision by a ?partial deregulation.?? In other words, this would have been a wholly ad-hoc and fictitious approach to fulfilling the agency?s regulatory responsibilities.

?Partial de-regulation ? is a faulty and misleading concept as regards the ecology of bioengineered plants. It does not prevent any of the potential harms from GE crops but seems to suggest that on a small enough scale they are tolerable. Tolerable to whom? Small environmental perturbations can lead to large impacts. In international meetings the US repeatedly says it supports ?sound science? as the basis for regulation; the proceeding illustrates just how farcical such claims actually are, since there is no science supporting a notion of ?partial de-regulation?.

Apparently this ?partial? proposal ran into considerable opposition in Congress and from some farm groups and biotechnology companies. Claiming that the introduction of restrictions based on economic consequences of pollen drift ?politicizes the regulatory process and goes beyond your statutory authority,? Representative Frank D. Lucas, Republican of Oklahoma, the new GOP chair of the House Agriculture Committee wrote to Secretary Vilsack on Jan. 19, and held a hearing on the proposals the next day. The letter was co-signed by Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Pat Roberts of Kansas. Of course, an EIS is supposed to look at economic consequences of major federal actions, but it may be too much to expect these legislators to know what the law requires. Instead, they argued against any restrictions since the Department?s environmental impact statement had concluded that growing GE alfalfa would be OK. They seem to have won, at least for now.

Restricting the growing of alfalfa would undermine Washington?s repeated position at international meetings that GE is completely safe and would run counter to its efforts to pressure other countries to accept genetically modified crops. And the Obama White House is not going to alter its business-friendly policies?according to Maureen Dowd in the NY Times (Jan 30, 2011), chief advisor David Axelrod recently punned that everyone should ??plow forward? on a plan for genetically produced alfalfa.?

The press has depicted the debate over GM alfalfa as biotech vs. organic but in reality organic is a small percentage of the alfalfa production segment that is threatened by the introduction of GM alfalfa (it is used as feed for cows whose milk is labeled ?organic?). But conventional alfalfa is also threatened. Alfalfa seed companies have huge export markets to GMO-sensitive regions such as the EU, Middle East, and Asia, particularly Japan and they don?t want to jeopardize those markets. Two of the plaintiffs in the alfalfa suit are conventional alfalfa seed companies. Secretary Vilsack and the USDA have proposed a plan for the ?coexistence? of GMOs alongside organic and conventional crops. Unfortunately this will result in genetic contamination.

The EIS inadequately assessed the likelihood of contamination injuries and the need for redress (if not, indeed, prevention). Over 200 past contamination episodes have cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales, not always compensated by crop developers. (It is interesting to note that the 160 members of the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol?which does not include the US?agreed a few months ago to a treaty to redress such damages if they occur internationally.)

The EIS misrepresented the situation regarding the inevitable increase in herbicidal chemicals, perhaps up to 23 million pounds per year. And it ignored the likely increase in herbicide-resistant ?superweeds,? already becoming an important US agricultural concern. It used a short-term and short-sighted approach.

Although the final EIS noted risks to organic and conventional farmers ( concerns surrounding purity and access to non-GE seed), the decision still places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters. The USDA must take a more proactive role to ensure that these risks are minimalized and that they are not thrown on innocent third parties. ?We appreciate the measures that the Secretary has announced to explore ways to develop the science to protect organic and other non-GE alfalfa farmers from contamination. However, to institute these measures after the GE alfalfa is deregulated defies commonsense,? said Michael Sligh, founding member of the National Organics Coalition. ?Logically, efforts to develop the science of preventing GMO contamination should precede, not follow, any decision to deregulate GE crops.?

The underlying problem in this proceeding is that APHIS refuses to follow full risk assessment procedures established for GE food plants, such as those specified in the UN?s Codex Alimentarius (although the US was one of the 168 countries which approved their adoption at the meeting of the Codex Commission about a decade ago). Nor would it accord with the norms of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (which the US has not adopted, but are followed by 170 other countries). Too often, APHIS has relied on information and analyses provided by the industry, as a rubber stamp, without any independent assessment of its own?an actual situation of industry ?self-regulation? which has been repeatedly (in all areas of environmental and consumer concern) shown to be a farce.

There have been about 200 incidents of GE crops contaminating non-GE produce, resulting in hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars in damages; contamination is a real risk and one of very significant magnitude. Indeed, the trial court in the original lawsuit found that contamination by GE alfalfa has already occurred. Thus, the Department cannot dismiss it as insignificant or rest on Monsanto?s assurances that its practices render contamination unlikely. (Monsanto?s documented history of lying to governmental bodies and distorting evidence in submissions reduces its credibility to nil, anyway.)

APHIS must surely be aware that the US government?s definition of ?organic? (by the USDA) contains no threshold for the presence of GE contamination. More than a quarter of a million commentators vigorously objected to the original version of the rule which would have allowed GE components in ?organic? foods. APHIS must proceed in a manner which guarantees that contamination will not occur, even if this means denying permission to plant GE alfalfa. Contamination by GE alfalfa violates the basic tort ideas of nuisance and trespass (although most farmers are not economically able to challenge a giant corporation such as Monsanto).

The Department suggests that consumers will forgive unintentional contamination, but intention is irrelevant to the National Organic Standards and to the protection of human health. Consumers have a legal right to demand that products live up to their labeling. Additionally, the claim that consumers will forgive unintentional contamination is unsubstantiated. Most surveys of US consumers indicate that they want to know that their food is free of any kind of contamination; further, most surveys point out the vast majority of US consumers do not want to have unlabeled GE food in their grocery stores.

The Center for Food Safety is re-commencing the litigation. Hopefully, the court will enjoin any planting this spring, so that contamination doesn?t lead to a fait accompli and the insidious presence of more GE in our food supply?untested for its effects on human health and the environment.

An official submission to the USDA by Chuck Noble, an alfalfa grower near Bellevue, WA, makes these points:

?Conventional and GE alfalfa coexistence is not possible or practical. Some reasons:

1. The USDA should realize that not all crops can coexist nor should all crops be genetically engineered.

2. A monopoly is growing in the seed industry which is threatening to destroy independent seed producers.

3. Technologically, perennial crops ? alfalfa and grasses ? should not be genetically engineered because they cannot be kept in the fence. Human-inserted genes must be controlled.

4. 230,000 negative comments were received on the 2009 Draft EIS.

5. Approximately 100,000 acres of GE alfalfa were planted in two years out of over 20 million acres of conventional alfalfa. Most of the GE acres have been taken out.

6. GE alfalfa takes 20% more seed to establish the same stand as conventional alfalfa.

7. The GE gene does not add nutrition and the herbicide on the plants does not have nutrition.

8. Many of us use Roundup to kill alfalfa stands in crop rotations. GE alfalfa will be a weed not easily killed in other crops being grown.

9. GE alfalfa seed is becoming costly to keep out of conventional seed lots. Accurate tests and hygiene, clean combines, cleaners, and isolated fields are all issues. Since the Magna Carta, 1215 AD, we have the right to grow our crops without being trespassed by man-caused genes.

10. To allow GE alfalfa to be grown for a small number of people who want to plant into their weed patches is poor reasoning. The majority of growers timely suppress weeds and use crop rotation management wisely.

11. Coexistence of GE alfalfa is not possible without wrecking the conventional alfalfa and seed industry and causing further monopoly.

12. Up to half of USA seed production comes from alfalfa second growth such as I grow.

13. GE alfalfa will add costs to all producers and consumers. The benefit goes to the monopoly patent holder as we get further and further contaminated.

14. Genetically engineered effects are very difficult to back out of a perennial crop such as alfalfa and must not be allowed.

I have worked hard on this issue for five years. I was at the USDA-APHIS meeting in Colorado in October 2007, representing the 100,000?s of growers against the contaminating trends of Monsanto?s GE alfalfa. I was raised on a western South Dakota farm, have a science education and raise alfalfa hay and grass for dairy buyers and other buyers. I sell alfalfa seed from second-growth alfalfa and our operation also supports honey bee production, which too is adversely affected by GE alfalfa.?



                                  PART 4

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   OBAMA GREENLIGHTS GE ALFALFA - MONSANTO: DEMOCRACY?S TERMINATOR GENE

SOURCE:  CounterPunch, USa

AUTHOR:  Khristopher Flack

URL:     http://www.counterpunch.org/flack02022011.html

DATE:    02.02.2011

SUMMARY: "As we watch millions of Tunisians, Egyptians, and Yemenis organize and challenge their respective dictators, many of us will be thankful that such oppression and turmoil don?t exist in our country. [...] Genetically modified alfalfa doesn?t sound as important as ?the economy,? ?healthcare,? or ?jobs.? [...] By allowing Monsanto to freely modify something so crucial, but so unfamiliar, the Department of Agriculture is facilitating the quiet modification of the American diet without popular consent or notice."

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OBAMA GREENLIGHTS GE ALFALFA - MONSANTO: DEMOCRACY?S TERMINATOR GENE

As we watch millions of Tunisians, Egyptians, and Yemenis organize and challenge their respective dictators, many of us will be thankful that such oppression and turmoil don?t exist in our country. Yet the Department of Agriculture?s decision on Thursday to approve the planting of genetically modified alfalfa should give us all reason to question the state of our democracy as well.

Genetically modified alfalfa doesn?t sound as important as ?the economy,? ?healthcare,? or ?jobs.? Yet our fourth largest crop, a major feed for dairy cows, has a direct impact on the quality of our milk. By allowing Monsanto to freely modify something so crucial, but so unfamiliar, the Department of Agriculture is facilitating the quiet modification of the American diet without popular consent or notice. More importantly, the company receiving free reign over our food supply is a predatory one, one that collaborates with cigarette companies, makes bestselling pesticides like Roundup?which the alfalfa is bred to resist?and runs small organic farmers out of business by suing them for using patented GM seeds that entered their fields on the wind.

But the greater danger isn?t posed to dairy consumers, or even to organic farmers whose fields face contamination. Free societies are built on the awareness of an informed public that has the power to exercise free choice. Genetically modified foods are, by their very nature, against the idea of free choice. They are engineered to replicate a chosen result in our food, regardless of the will of nature, farmers, or consumers, who are all forced to take submissive roles in the food chain. And so, in endorsing the planting of GM alfalfa, the Department of Agriculture has endorsed the denial of free choice on several levels, the least of which is the disregard for public participation during the process.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters that ?the decision reached [Thursday] is a reflection of our commitment to choice and trust.?

The problem is, he?s right.

In fact, as long as our federal government permits one company to disseminate a product that assumes the role of the public, we are enjoying a fictional quality of life that?s fundamentally worse than that experienced under any dictator. The evil of authoritarian regimes in other countries comes from the publicity of their restrictions on information and choice; the people in those countries are mostly aware of their oppression. In the United States, we?ve incubated a model of corporate influence so veiled that anyone who doesn?t commit their life to investigation even knows their democratic privileges are being muzzled or that their everyday diet is being chemically altered. It?s one thing to outwardly discourage the public from rebelling, but it?s much more criminal to craft a business plan that keeps the public from knowing there?s a reason to rebel, and to build a product into that plan that prevents objection, should the public ever come to its senses.

A true democracy would assign certain people to understand these details and defend the public interest. Yet it?s difficult to expect protection when the people in those positions, like Michael Taylor, the FDA?s Deputy Commissioner for Foods, in charge of food labeling and food safety, are former Monsanto executives. But there is one last line of defense that we should all expect the best from.

President Obama devoted several minutes of his State of the Union address to outlining why we need to become more innovative in technology, science, and industry to keep up with China and India. Monsanto?s genetically engineered foods are an ample example of the direction of biotech innovation in this country. We as a people should be more concerned with reinventing our relationship to our government and focus instead on catching up to the proud, insistent spirit of the Tunisians, Egyptians and Yemenis who have remembered that their countries wouldn?t exist without them, who have remembered their duty to hold their government accountable in no passive way. Unless we do the same, and refuse to be part of focus groups we did not sign up for, our democracy will follow the course of another Monsanto product, the so-called Terminator gene, which kills plants after one growing season, without producing additional seed. The worst part is, we might not notice the difference.

Khristopher Flack is a freelance writer and Farm-to-School Coordinator in northern Vermont. He manages Green Mountain Farm Direct, a regional food distributor focusing on locally grown foods.