Supreme Court Gives Ruling on Genetically Modified Alfalfa, Congress Responds

September 17, 2010

In the case of Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms'”the first-ever Supreme Court case to be held on genetically modified (GM) crops'”the Supreme Court has ruled 7 to 1 in favor of lifting an injunction (established previously by a lower court) on planting GM alfalfa. Furthermore, planting and selling of said alfalfa is still prohibited until an environmental review is conducted and considered.

In the case of Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms'”the first-ever Supreme Court case to be held on genetically modified (GM) crops'”the Supreme Court has ruled 7 to 1 in favor of lifting an injunction (established previously by a lower court) on planting GM alfalfa. Furthermore, planting and selling of said alfalfa is still prohibited until an environmental review is conducted and considered.

The case centers on Monsanto...s (St. Louis) Roundup Ready alfalfa, an alfalfa engineered to be resistant to Roundup pesticide. Idaho-based alfalfa producer Geertson Seed Farms and other concerned parties have argued that Roundup Ready alfalfa could threaten the very nature of organic and conventional alfalfa through cross-pollination.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS; Washington, DC) argued that the Supreme Court decision is not necessarily a clear victory for Monsanto.

'First, the Court did not overrule the lower court...s ban on the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa and, therefore, the ban remains intact,' wrote Lisa J. Bunin, PhD, organic policy coordinator at CFS. 'Moreover, the Court...s decision to set aside the injunction was based, in part, on the fact that a prohibition on GMO planting was already in effect, due to the lower court...s ruling and, therefore, the injunction was duplicative overkill.'

The Supreme Court also acknowledged the possible environmental and economic consequences of cross-pollination of GM alfalfa with organic and conventional alfalfa, wrote Bunin.

Congress Responds

Led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), 56 members of Congress have signed a letter addressed to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, warning of the threat genetically modified alfalfa could have on organic alfalfa and dairy (since alfalfa is eaten by cows).

Congress...s open letter to USDA ends as follows: 'We request that you fully review the facts, law, and science in this case and take the '˜no action... alternative to maintain the regulated status for GE alfalfa"'

Related Content:

Regulatory