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04
Sep

Federal Court Upholds Ban on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2008) On September 2, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a nationwide ban on the planting of genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa pending a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Court determined that the planting of genetically modified alfalfa can result in potentially irreversible harm to organic and conventional varieties of crops, damage to the environment, and economic harm to farmers. Beyond Pesticides is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Although the suit (Geertson Seed Farms, et al. v. Johanns) was brought against U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forage Genetics and Monsanto entered into the suit as Defendant-Intervenors. In her opinion, Circuit Judge Mary M. Schroeder held that, “Monsanto and Forage Genetics contend that the District Court disregarded their financial losses, but the district court considered those economic losses and simply concluded that the harm to growers and consumers who wanted non-genetically engineered alfalfa outweighed the financial hardships to Monsanto and Forage Genetics and their growers.”

“This ruling affirms a major victory for consumers, ranchers, organic farmers, and most conventional farmers across the country,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, lead plaintiff and counsel in the lawsuit. “Roundup Ready Alfalfa represents a very real threat to farmers’ livelihoods and the environment; the judge rightly dismissed Monsanto’s claims that their bottom line should come before the rights of the public and America’s farmers. This ruling is a turning point in the regulation of biotech crops in this country.”

The decision upholds U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer’s May 2007 ruling, in which he found that the USDA failed to address concerns that Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa. Judge Breyer specifically noted that Monsanto’s fear of lost sales “does not outweigh the potential irreparable damage to the environment.” Judge Schroeder’s decision affirms that USDA violated national environmental laws by approving GE alfalfa without a full Environmental Impact Statement. It also affirms that USDA failed to address the problem of Roundup-resistant “superweeds” that could follow commercial planting of GE alfalfa.

In addition to Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety represented the following co-plaintiffs and itself in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms. For more information on the lawsuit, please visit the Center for Food Safety website.

For more information on GE alfalfa and other GE food issues, see Beyond Pesticides GE Food and Organic Food program pages, as well as past news articles in Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News Blog archives.

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