That's what many fear about genetically engineered alfalfa. Organic farmers grow alfalfa as a forage crop for livestock, but genetically engineered crops can pollinate organic crops, making them non-organic. No organic forage, no organic livestock. No organic livestock, no organic milk.
That scenario has already played out in corn and canola, at least in some regions. A seed scientist at an organic seed company told me it's virtually impossible to find corn seed from the midwest that has avoided GM contamination. As a result, this company buys its organic corn seeds from a remote region of the Southeast. The same is true of rapeseed (canola) in Western Canada.
To avoid this fate with Round-Up Ready Alfalfa, 200,000 people have submitted comments to the USDA criticizing a draft environmental impact statement on the GM crop by the agency, which had recommended approval of the crop.
This battle has been brewing for sometime. In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the USDA for failing to conduct an environmental impact statement, as required by law, before deregulating the crop. The federal courts sided with CFS and banned GE alfalfa plantings until USDA analyzed the impacts of GE alfalfa on the environment, farmers and the public.
Strangely, that environmental impact statement concluded, "There is no evidence that consumers care about GE contamination of organic alfalfa" -- even though it would no longer qualify as organic if it were contaminated. Stranger still, considering that organic milk is the leading organic product sought by consumers.
Regardless of what you think about genetically modified crops, the question is whether a crop should be approved that could threaten the organic status of another crop. In this case, it's not just a crop, but the animals that depend on the crop for forages and the consumers who want the products produced by those animals. None will be organic if the feedstock is contaminated.
Today is the last day to submit a comment on the issue. Center for Food Safety has more information here.