USDA Regains Authority in Roundup Ready Alfalfa Case

June 23, 2010 03:31 AM

James Bruening, AgWeb Staff Writer

The authority has shifted back into the hands of the USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) after a 7-1 Supreme Court ruling Monday on the case of Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms.
In the case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lower district courts had stepped out of their authority when forming an injunction against the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa until an Environmental Impact Statement had been issued.
The case was first brought by a group of organic farming organizations and non-profit environmental groups. Their argument was that Roundup Ready alfalfa had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and was threatening the integrity of their crops. After a decision was made by district courts, an injunction was issued prohibiting the planting and sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa.
The case would then go on to be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court, which would affirm the district court’s decision. Read further background of this case.
The Supreme Court has noted that no irreparable harm could be caused by a partial deregulation of the product while an environmental impact statement is issued, which is far less extreme than a nationwide ban of the product. Their ruling has reversed the lower courts’ decision, remanding the case back to district courts while USDA decides what measures could be implemented while an environmental impact statement is issued.
This was a critical decision for Monsanto as such a statement can take up to one year to process, which would have disrupted the entire fall planting season.
“The real issue here was whether or not the USDA and APHIS would be blocked from taking interim measures to allow expanded planting while the Environmental Impact Statement was being prepared,” says David Snively, Monsanto senior vice president and general counsel.
“It was an important ruling because it clarified that the NEPA injunction that was entered by the district court really was a thumb on the scales on the way the system is normally supposed to work. And the court made pretty clear that standard rules apply and there has to be a balancing of interests before broad injunctive relief can be granted.”
A similar district court case is being heard on the issuing of a permanent injunction on the sale of Roundup Ready sugar beets in California. Monsanto is now preparing for an oral argument of this case on July 9.
“We knew the sugar beets case was trailing. I think it was important to get this precedent decided and thankfully it came out a few weeks before the oral argument on the sugar beets case.”
Monsanto has several allies in this court decision, with many joint friend-of-the-court briefs filed. Companies supporting the petition include:
  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • Biotechnology Industry Organization
  • American Seed Trade Association
  • American Soybean Association
  • National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance
  • National Association of Wheat Growers
  • National Cotton Council
  • National Potato Council

For More Information
Monsanto’s Day in Court




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