Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

Dane Scott, John Horwich


agricultural biotechnology, agricultural policy, genetic engineering, genetically modified foods, GMO, national organic program, roundup ready alfalfa


University of Montana


Genetically engineered (GE) seeds are central to the debates around agricultural biotechnology, and continue to be rapidly adopted across the globe. At the same time that GE crops increase in acreage, the organic market has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the American food industry. While biotechnology companies claim there is a successful “coexistence” of GE crop technologies and organic crops, many organic producers are already challenged by keeping unwanted GE traits out of their fields. Still, little attention has been given to the role of regulations in the face of organic contamination by genetically engineered material. This paper looks at the National Organic Program (NOP) and Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, and analyzes whether they are adequate for protecting the integrity of organic food in the face of genetic engineering, using a relatively new GE crop, Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa, as a case study. Alfalfa is an essential component to the organic livestock industry, especially to organic dairy, where the demand has grown faster than the supply. This paper reveals that the organic alfalfa industry is at risk of contamination by RR alfalfa, and that part of the risk can be attributed to the inadequacy of the two regulatory frameworks, as both do not go far enough to keep GE crops contained and the integrity of organic products protected. These findings resulted from an extensive review of the pertinent laws and regulations, a review of the U.S.’s experience with GE crop technology, and research into the potential implications of introducing RR alfalfa. Recommendations include making changes to the two frameworks’ approach to regulation, including: making improvements to the regulation of GE crops both before and after they enter the marketplace; encouraging discussion within the organic industry about current threats to the integrity of organic, and the pros and cons of establishing a tolerance level and testing system; and taking a precautionary approach to RR alfalfa by performing a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and pulling it from the market until all risks are addressed.



© Copyright 2006 Kristina Joy Hubbard