Tuesday, March 22, 2011

GE Alfalfa: Brought To You By Land O'Lakes

by Adriana Velez • March 02, 2011 Reprinted from Change.org

• Dairy •
• Gene Modification •
• Ingredients & Labeling
• I can't believe it's that butter.

When most of us hear "genetically engineered (GE) seeds" we think of Monsanto. But the new Roundup Ready, GE alfalfa seeds that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just deregulated were actually co-developed by Forage Genetics International, a subsidiary of butter producer, Land O'Lakes. And the company isn't shy about saying so, either: On January 27, Land O'Lakes posted Forage Genetics' press release announcing the deregulation.

• Forage Genetics is leasing their seed to Monsanto, so the deregulation of GE alfalfa is probably good news to Land O'Lakes' cooperative members. This kind of vertical integration (GE seeds for alfalfa fed to cows that produce milk for Land O'Lakes butter) is good for their bottom line. But is it good news to consumers?

• Survey after survey shows that consumers continue to be wary of GMOs. Just this week, MSNBC.com conducted a poll showing that a whopping 95.2 percent of respondents believe genetically modified foods should be labeled because "It's an ethical issue — consumers should be informed so they can make a choice." Just 3.7 percent say, "No. The U.S. government says they are safe and that's good enough for me." And an even smaller percentage of respondents (1.1 percent) are apathetic.

• Obviously this poll should not be mistaken for a scientifically rigorous study, but it is nonetheless revealing. If Land O'Lakes customers knew that the company's butter came from GMO-fed cows, would they choose a different brand? If they knew its subsidiary was developing genetically modified seeds, would they choose a different tub of butter?

• As a butter-lover who has purchased Land O'Lakes butter countless times, I say absolutely — I will buy a different brand of butter from now on.

• I started buying Land O'Lakes butter years ago when my favorite cooking magazine recommended it as the editors' favorite. I shop at a food co-op that carries it along with several other choices, including organic and smaller brands. Price notwithstanding, I'm going with the independently owned, organic butter from now on. As a member of an unapologetically butter-obsessed family, I can tell you that that's no small change.

• Clearly there are other dairy companies out there that exploit workers, don't treat cows humanely, pollute, and help manipulate dairy prices. There are many consumers who refuse to purchase dairy products at all out of protest to the entire industry. But Land O'Lakes doesn't care about those people — they care about their customers. And if their customers say no to GMOs, they may start listening. So vote with your dollars, butter lovers. And everyone, let's keep working toward larger change. Sign Food & Water Watch's petition asking the Obama Administration to protect farmers and consumers from Monsanto's GE crops.



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