U.S. approves RR alfalfa for unrestricted planting

(Reuters) –– Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday said U.S. farmers could proceed with planting genetically altered alfalfa, without the restrictions opponents say are needed to protect conventional and organic farm fields from contamination.

USDA said the decision was made after analysis of various economic and environmental factors, and allows farmers to get their crop in the ground this spring.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the decision applies only to Roundup Ready alfalfa, engineered by Monsanto to withstand treatments of the company’s Roundup glyphosate herbicide.

The department is facing similar questions about biotech sugar beets, and an announcement regarding that crop is expected next week, Vilsack said.

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