High Court Hears Biotech Alfalfa Case

by Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Attorneys arguing before the Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s injunction banning the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa told the high court that it will likely be at least a year before USDA completes an environmental impact study that could allow farmers to plant the crop.

In the first biotech-crop case to arrive at the Supreme Court, Monsanto Co. and the Obama administration challenged a district court injunction issued three years ago that created a nationwide ban on planting Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA had moved to deregulate the crop, but environmental groups and some farmers sued, claiming deregulating Roundup alfalfa would contaminate farms and hurt the ability to export.

Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart told justices the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has received more than 145,000 public comments on the draft environmental impact statement being created to potentially deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA has been working on that impact statement since 2007. "So this process is going to take longer than APHIS anticipated in the outset," Stewart said.

Justice Samuel Alito said earlier in the arguments he didn’t understand the need to overturn the injunction because the environmental impact statement was supposed to be issued soon. "This case may be moot by the time they do that," Alito said.

Stewart later responded to Alito, saying, "There is no prospect the case will become moot before a judgment is rendered."

A ruling on the case by the Supreme Court likely will be issued in early summer.

Eight justices heard the case after Justice Stephen Breyer recused himself because his brother was the district judge who issued the original ban and vacated the APHIS decision to deregulate the crop.

Justices were skeptical about the idea of overturning the injunction. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the justices questioning why the high court should overturn the injunction given that Judge Charles Breyer’s order had essentially vacated APHIS’ original deregulation of the crop.

"As long as you didn’t appeal the vacation of the order, I don’t see how there is anything for us to deal with," Ginsburg told Gregory Garre, the lawyer representing Monsanto.

Chief Justice John Roberts further added that given the district court decision, APHIS could have issued another rule partially deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA and Monsanto argued that they had proposed allowing Roundup alfalfa planting to continue under more stringent planting conditions, but the district judge rejected that proposal in issuing his ban.

"You have the burden to establish entitlement to these conditions, is that correct?" Roberts said.

Stewart said the costs to Monsanto and farmers wanting to plant Roundup alfalfa outweighed the demands being required by banning all planting of the crop. "The issue is whether those protective measures would have protected irreparable harm to the plaintiffs," Stewart said.

Justice Antonin Scalia questioned the environmental attorneys and farmers who filed the suit about the threat of "irreparable harm" that would come from planting Roundup Ready alfalfa.

"There isn’t a single plaintiff that has a claim on the utmost limits of risk," Scalia said.

Attorney Lawrence Robbins, arguing for the Center for Food Safety and the farmers who oppose Roundup Ready alfalfa, argued that there are a wide range of risks the farmers face from contamination, and that crop contamination could happen in several different ways, such as a custom harvester cutting a Roundup Ready crop one day and an organic crop the next. Scalia questioned whether the market would take care of it.

"You don’t think the free market would produce companies that advertise that they only cut natural seed fields?" Scalia said.

Later, noting that even though the environmental impact statement may take a year, Scalia said deregulation isn’t going to cause irreparable harm. "The most it does is make it more difficult for farmers who want to cater to the European market … this is not the end of the world," Scalia said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wanted attorneys to explain where the court erred, given that USDA’s APHIS was the agency that failed to obey the law by doing an environmental impact statement as demanded under the National Environmental Policy Act. Sotomayor said the attempt to allow planting under tighter conditions without a completed environmental impact statement was "short-circuiting" the NEPA process. Stewart disagreed.

"From our perspective, rather than short-circuit the process, we were trying to streamline it," Stewart said.

Sotomayor inquired where seed alfalfa is grown, and upon being told by the environmental attorneys that it was mainly in the Pacific Northwest, she questioned the breadth of the lower court’s "one size fits all" nationwide injunction. "How is that reasonable when the risk is different in different places?" she demanded.

(Source: DTN/The Progressive Farmer)

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories

Crop InputsGMO Pipeline Features Consumer Targeted Modifications
April 15, 2016
The newly approved GMO Simplot Innate potato, developed to produce lower amounts of the harmful-yet-natural chemical acrylamide, resist bruising, and Read More
Crop InputsReuters: Chinese GMO Seed Espionage Making Iowa Farmers Uneasy
April 12, 2016
Tim Burrack, a northern Iowa farmer in his 44th growing season, has taken to keeping a wary eye out for Read More
Peanut field
FungicidesArysta LifeScience Receives EPA Approval Of Fungicide Seed Treatment
April 5, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced it received approval from the EPA of RANCONA V PD, a broad-spectrum fungicide dust Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto’s Dicamba Cropping System Cleared For 30-Day Comment Period
April 1, 2016
Today, EPA announced a 30-day public comment period regarding the in-crop use of dicamba herbicide with Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
Eric SfiligojBiotech Corn Drop More Economics Vs. Consumer Rejection
April 18, 2016
Since their introduction into the agricultural marketplace, biotech crops has steadily grown in acreage in the countries of the world Read More
Crop InputsBayer: 5 Reasons We Disagree With Maryland Neonic Ban
April 12, 2016
We’re disappointed that the Maryland legislature chose not to stand up for sound science and the rights of Maryland’s homeowners Read More
Corn
OpinionChallenging Global Economic Conditions Putting More Heat On U.S. Ag Retailers
April 7, 2016
There it is. That vague, slightly sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Things are getting weird out there. Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsHELM AGRO Adds New Marketing & Business Development…
May 4, 2016
HELM AGRO US, Inc. has announced the hiring of Troy Bettner as the company’s new Marketing & Business Development Leader. Bettner Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncont…
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Spray Drift
HerbicidesRoundup Ready Xtend: Silver Linings In Label Delays For…
May 4, 2016
Since 2014, Monsanto has trained more than 20,000 growers and retailers on all aspects of its new dicamba-tolerant system at Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Board Appoints New CEO
May 4, 2016
Syngenta announced today the appointment of J. Erik Fyrwald, currently President and CEO of the U.S. chemistry distribution company Univar Read More
Crop InputsIntrexon Establishes Crop Protection Enterprise
May 4, 2016
Intrexon Corp., a leader in synthetic biology, has announced the formation of Intrexon Crop Protection (ICP), a wholly-owned subsidiary dedicated to Read More
Patriot 4440 Sprayer close up
ManagementFlashing Back And Moving Forward On Spray Drift
May 3, 2016
The potential for pesticide drift remains an unavoidable feature of modern agriculture. Here, too, history repeats itself. “When Roundup debuted, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesSurvey Provides Insights On Giant Ragweed In The Corn B…
May 2, 2016
A new survey published in the journal Weed Science offers insights into the distribution and management of giant ragweed, a Read More
Truck dumping dry fertilizer
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics Q&A: Southern States’ Joe Wlod…
May 2, 2016
Joe Wlodkoski, Director of Agronomy Procurement, Fertilizer, Southern States Cooperative, is a 40-plus year fertilizer industry veteran. He is quite Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
West Central Dome structure
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics 2016: All Clear, So Far
May 1, 2016
After a relatively hairy early start to the spring fertilizer movement season with flooding in Louisiana and St. Louis, things Read More
BAICOR
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Utah Specialty Fertilizer Company
April 28, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty ag products, has acquired a majority interest in BAICOR, L.C. BAICOR, Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Adds Vice President Of Business…
April 28, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences has announced the addition of Marc Treurniet to the plant health and nutrition company’s management team. Treurniet Read More
ManagementBiotech Crops Developments and Millennials
April 28, 2016
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf talk about the latest activities in biotech crops and a major shift in the Read More
Industry NewsNachurs-Alpine, Pathway Biologic Extend Marketing Agree…
April 28, 2016
Nachurs-Alpine Solutions (Marion, OH) and Pathway Biologic (Plant City, FL) announce an extension to their exclusive marketing agreement specific to Read More
MicronutrientsCharah Add Three Warehouses For SUL4R-PLUS Fertilizer
April 28, 2016
Charah, Inc., a total solutions company providing unparalleled service and innovation for the coal-fired power generation industry, announced today that Read More
Spenser Forgey, Yahama Fortix
FungicidesIndiana Farmer Wins Arysta LifeScience FORTIX Fungicide…
April 28, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently presented Spenser Forgey, a grower from Young America, IN, with a new 2016 Yamaha Grizzly Read More
Corn Field
HerbicidesNew Wilbur‐Ellis Herbicide Targets Volunteer Corn
April 28, 2016
Wilbur‐Ellis Co., a recognized leader in marketing and distribution of crop protection products, as well as precision agriculture technology, has Read More
StewardshipNRCS To Help Farmers Measure Conservation Impacts On Wa…
April 27, 2016
The USDA has announced the availability of $2 million to help farmers install edge-of-field stations that monitor water quality as Read More