Possible GMO Alfalfa Found Growing in Non-GMO Field

Sep 12, 2013

Washington agriculture researchers are investigating whether genetically-modified alfalfa was growing where it wasn’t supposed to. 

An Eastern Washington farmer's alfalfa has been rejected by a broker that says it found evidence of genetically modified pesticide resistance.

The seeds have been turned over to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Spokesman Mike Louisell says testing for genetic modification will be completed by Friday at its Yakima, Wash., seed lab.

Genetically-modified alfalfa is legal to grow and sell in the U.S., contrasting May's discovery of genetically modified wheat in an Oregon field. Modified wheat is illegal in the U.S. outside of licensed test fields.

But this farmer was trying to grow nonmodified alfalfa. The farmer contacted the Agriculture Department in late August, and tests began after Labor Day. The department has not identified the farmer.

Pesticide-resistant alfalfa was developed by Monsanto Co. and has been licensed to several companies.

The discovery comes just as debate on Washington’s Initiative 522 is heating up. 

The initiative would require genetically-modified foods to be labeled. Supporters of the initiative say consumers deserve to know what’s in the region’s farm products. Those against, including the seed giant Monsanto, say the new requirement would be too costly for producers.