USDA APPROVES GMO LOW LIGNIN ALFALFA: The Agriculture Department as issued its approval for a variety of alfalfa produced by Monsanto and Forage Genetics International that has been genetically engineered to have reduced levels of lignin, allowing for more flexibility in harvest times and the potential for greater yields.

USDA’s determination of non-regulated status is set for publication in Monday’sFederal Register.

Lignin is a substance naturally produced in alfalfa that makes the cell walls of the plant stiff and fibrous as it ages. With existing varieties of alfalfa, farmers must harvest the plant while still relatively young — before the lignin has built up — and it is considered to be more nutritious to livestock. With Monsanto’s new variety, farmers would have more flexibility in when they can harvest and, in letting crops have more time to grow, bring in greater yields, according toMonsanto’s petition for deregulation, which was submitted in November 2012