Roundup Ready alfalfa seed is available for purchase in the U.S. once again. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently announced its decision to grant nonregulated status to Roundup Ready alfalfa with no related conditions for its sale or use.
U.S. hay growers will be able to choose from numerous Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties in time for spring planting this year. Seed is expected to be available from most major U.S. seed companies.
Monsanto and Forage Genetics International developed Roundup Ready Alfalfa and licensed it to other companies to develop specific Roundup Ready varieties. The first Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties were introduced to U.S. alfalfa growers in 2005. Roundup Ready alfalfa is available with fall dormancy ratings ranging from 3 to 9 and tailored to growing conditions throughout the U.S.
Monsanto and Forage Genetics have indicated Genuity Roundup Ready alfalfa will be marketed with an added technology fee of $150 per 50-lb. bag of seed west of the Rocky Mountains, an area that encompasses seven western states plus Alaska and Hawaii, and $125 per bag in all other states.
APHIS’s deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa became effective upon publication of the nonregulated status in the Federal Register on February 2, 2011. This announcement came at the end of a 46-month environmental review process. APHIS announced publication of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready Alfalfa on December 16, 2010. The EIS satisfied a 9th Circuit Court ruling that required the environmental review to be conducted. On June 21, 2010, the Supreme Court reversed a federal appeals court ruling prohibiting selling Roundup Ready alfalfa seed. The Supreme Court recognized the product would remain regulated pending the completion of the EIS.
USDA considered three alternatives during the preparation of the final EIS. Regulating Roundup Ready alfalfa seed was one option. Another possible outcome would have meant deregulating the seed with the stipulation that producers follow a combination of isolation distances and geographic restrictions on seed production. In some areas, Roundup Ready hay could have been regulated as well. The final USDA decision, deregulating the sale of the seed, allows producers to use the seed and resulting hay without conditions or restrictions.
When announcing the USDA deregulation decision without conditions, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that alfalfa industry stakeholders would be working together to keep Roundup Ready genetics from entering the organic or non-genetically modified alfalfa seed streams. The National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance has worked with Monsanto, Forage Genetics International and the alfalfa industry to craft specific stakeholder agreements dealing with isolation distances to prevent cross-pollination.
Roundup Ready alfalfa was initially taken off the market after preliminary and permanent injunctions were enacted in 2007. This action was taken in response to a lawsuit claiming USDA was in error when the agency deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa without having completed an EIS.