U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Ends Ban on Genetically Modified Alfalfa
WASHINGTON - In a 7-1 a ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 21, 2010 reversed a federal appeals court ruling that had prohibited Monsanto Co. from selling alfalfa seeds resistant to the pesticide Roundup.
According to the ruling, in determining whether to grant nonregulated status to a genetically engineered plant variety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which requires federal agencies “to the fullest extent possible” to prepare a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) for any actions with significant effects on the environment. The agency need not complete an EIS if it finds, based on a shorter statement known as an environmental assessment (EA), that the proposed action will not have a significant environmental impact.
The case, Monsanto v. Geerston Seed Farms involved a challenge to APHIS’s decision to approve the unconditional deregulation of Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA). Conventional alfalfa growers and environmental groups filed this action challenging that decision on the grounds that it violated NEPA and other federal laws. The District Court held that APHIS violated NEPA when it deregulated RRA without first completing a detailed EIS. To remedy that violation, the court vacated the agency’s decision completely deregulating RRA; enjoined APHIS from deregulating RRA, in whole or in part, pending completion of the EIS; and entered a nationwide permanent injunction prohibiting almost all future planting of RRA during the pendency of the EIS process.
According to an Associated Press article, Monsanto argued that the ban was too broad and was based on the assumption that their products were harmful. Opponents of the use of genetically engineered seeds say they can contaminate conventional crops, but Monsanto says such cross-pollination is unlikely.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, which agreed that the injunction went too far.