Supreme Court sides with Monsanto on Roundup Ready Alfalfa

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, June 21 – In a victory for Monsanto, the U.S Supreme court voted 7-1 to reverse a lower court ruling prohibiting the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa. In the court’s first decision involving genetically modified crops, the justices said a federal district judge in San Francisco went too far when he placed a nationwide ban on Roundup-ready alfalfa seeds because of the possibility they would contaminate other plants.

The District Court “abused its discretion in enjoining APHIS from effecting a partial deregulation and in prohibiting the possibility of planting the seeds in accordance with the terms of such a deregulation,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the majority. He criticized the use of an injunction to prohibit all future plantings.

“If the District Court was right to conclude that any partial deregulation, no matter how limited, required the preparation of an EIS, it is hard to see why the limited planting and harvesting that the District Court allowed did not also require the preparation of an EIS.”

Justice John Paul Stevens was the lone dissenter. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer didn't take part in today's ruling because his brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer issued the original injunction which barred additional plantings after March 30, 2007. His decision was upheld by a U.S. appeals court.

Environmental groups and conventional seed companies, led by Geertson Seed Farms, had sued the USDA in 2006 to force it to rescind its approval of the Monsanto alfalfa seed until it did a full environmental impact study.

“This Supreme Court ruling is important for every American farmer, not just alfalfa growers. All growers can rely on the expertise of USDA, and trust that future challenges to biotech approvals must now be based on scientific facts, not speculation.” David F. Snively, Monsanto senior vice president and general counsel.

For more on this decision, read this week’s edition of Agri-Pulse.

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