Commodities & markets, Conservation & sustainability, International issues, Management, Policy, Studies

Sensitivity to GE Alfalfa remains Important for Alfalfa Export and Organic Markets

Dan Putnam


Since the advent of Roundup-Ready (or RR) alfalfa, first in 2005 and fully in 2011, many growers have embraced Genetic Engineering (GE) technology, while others have been concerned about its impacts. There are currently two GE traits: RR and down-regulated lignin (named HarvXtra) commercialized in alfalfa. RR alfalfa is currently the more widely adopated. Two key markets are the most ‘sensitive’ to the presence of GE crop: organic and export, of which export is largest. While some countries (notably Japan) allow imports of RR alfalfa, other countries do not. Most exporters currently require non-GE alfalfa. China is the most sensitive market, and can reject imported loads tested to contain low-level presence of GE traits. Growers can meet these sensitive market demands, but they must pay attention to a series of steps to assure customers of the non-GE nature of their product. Key among these is the selection of seed tested to be non-GE at the level of sensitivity of their specific market. Coexistence strategies for alfalfa forage require an understanding of the sources of low-level presence, market tolerances of diverse markets, and market assurance processes.


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