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In Stunning Reversal, USDA Chief Vilsack Greenlights Monsanto’s Alfalfa

Government regulation of corporate practices has apparently been much on President Obama’s mind lately. He recent penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed vowing to review federal regulations to make sure they weren’t too onerous on business. In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, he illustrated his concern about the complexity of federal regulation by pointing out that two different agencies regulate wild salmon. “And when it’s smoked, I understand it gets really complicated,” he added. Ha, ha.

In other words, Obama is trying to establish himself as an eminently reasonable, pro-business sort of president — you know, not the sort of fellow who would let things like the Wall Street banking meltdown, the Upper Big Branch coal-mine disaster, the BP oil spill, or any other notorious lapse in government oversight stand in the way of the business of doing business.

Obama’s instantly famous “salmon joke” has me looking into how the government regulates salmon farms — those vast factory-style pens concentrated mostly off the coast of Washington state. I’m not done with research and won’t be until next week, as I’m preparing for a trip tomorrow to California to speak at the Edible Communities conference in Santa Barbara. The initial results of my research: government oversight of salmon farms consists mainly of encouraging them to produce as much salmon as possible.

This afternoon, my farmed-salmon research and trip prep were rudely interrupted by an unexpected regulation-related announcement: the USDA has decided to approve the use genetically modified alfalfa without any restriction. Read more