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Washington State Testing For GMO Alfalfa

Gary D. Robson

Washington agriculture researchers are investigating whether genetically engineered alfalfa was growing where it wasn’t supposed to in the eastern part of the state.

The case has big implications for Northwest hay exporters and an upcoming ballot initiative.

GMO alfalfa is legal to grow in the United States. It’s even legal to ship to Japan. But Northwest hay growers and buyers say overseas customers don’t want to buy it.

So finding any GMO alfalfa where it’s not supposed to be is a major perception problem, exporters say. And keeping GMO and conventional seeds separate in a complex agricultural web is a major challenge.

The news about the possible GMO alfalfa discovery comes just as debate on Washington’s Initiative 522 is heating up. It 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 ag producers.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.