Monsanto’s GM Alfalfa Headed Back To Court

The lengthy legal battle over genetically modified alfalfa will go yet another round.

On Friday, the Center for Food Safety, a group critical of genetically modified crops, sued federal regulators, alleging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent approval of genetically modified alfalfa was illegal. The center alleges the approval is based on faulty information, and that genetically modified alfalfa will damage the organic industry because it could contaminate conventional or organic alfalfa. The alfalfa, developed by Monsanto, is engineered to withstand applications of the herbicide Roundup, which kills weeds but not the crop.

The suit was filed in federal court in San Francisco.

Plaintiffs include a coalition of farmers, including dairy farmers who say they could lose the primary forage for their dairy cows if organic alfalfa is contaminated. To maintain organic standards, dairy cows have to eat organically grown hay.

“Approving the unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa is a blatant case of the USDA serving one form of agriculture at the expense of others,” said plaintiff Ed Maltby, head of the Northeast Alliance of Organic Dairy Producers.

Monsanto issued a statement late Friday saying: “We are aware that CFS has filed yet another lawsuit, and we will be reviewing allegations. In late January, the USDA authorized planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa after preparing an extensive Environmental Impact Statement, providing several public comment opportunities and determining that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as conventional alfalfa.”

The Agriculture Department initially approved the alfalfa in 2005, but the Center for Food Safety challenged the decision, saying regulators had not performed adequate environmental reviews. A federal judge agreed and banned further planting.

Ultimately, Monsanto took the case to the Supreme Court, which lifted the ban last year. The court said, however, that the department would have to complete an environmental impact statement.

The statement was finished in December, and last month the Agriculture Department said it would “deregulate” modified alfalfa, meaning it can be grown without any government-imposed restrictions.

The impact statement, critics pointed out, cites evidence of cross-contamination. Seed scientists have since said that more contamination is inevitable.



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6 comments on “Monsanto’s GM Alfalfa Headed Back To Court

  1. Really, we are serving only on facet of Agriculture! Why do they keep going to court in California?…not that I have anything against CA, but let’s fight this out in Wisconsin, Michigan, or one of the “I” states. Oh, maybe because they feel they will get a more one-sided opinion from the CA judges. I am serving both groups of growers: the organic and conventional. And to be honest, I can’t afford $8/gal milk, so I need to keep my conventional guys profitable!

  2. Its finally reached the point where I take a stand. One sided? Try this. There will a concerted effort on my part to persuade anyone I can that its time to boycott all “organic food”. I refuse to support anyone who supports them.

  3. How does round-up ready alfalfa with the tech fees keep your guys profitable? When Dr Dan Undersander from the U of Wisconsin highly recommends quality grasses with our alfalfa to improve rumen digestion, where does round-up ready alfalfa fit? Enough is enough with laboratory genetic modification, learn how to farm with less chemicals. It can be done. Every year the chemical companies come out with a new cocktail to fix a perceived problem that the old cocktail can’t fix. Fix your soil and work with the soil biology. Read “Glyphosate effects on diseases of plants” by D.M. Huber

  4. “Learn how to farm with less chemicals. It can be done.”

    LOL Learn how to farm with less land, learn how to eat with less food, learn how to pay your bills with less money. It may have a tech fee but ask almost anyone that still has a really nice stand of RR Alfalfa that is left over from 5 or 6 years ago what they think about it. The stand life last longer with no weed competition. And the chemicals used to control the weeds in conventional alfalfa are WAY more expensive so that makes up a good part of it.

    Ignorance is bliss I guess….

  5. Tom, you have a valid point on the loss of land. Society needs to realize where their food comes from and that crop land is a finite resource. As a society we cannot continue to let crop land be lost. We need to put a cage around urban sprawl. On your second point, I am a crop consultant, and 99% of my client do not spray their alfalfa fields. We take a biological systems approach to our soils and crop rotations. We use tight rotations (seeding year then two harvest years of hay followed by corn then another row crop or small grain and back into hay). This system over time improves soil biology and allows us to reduce our purchased nitrogen. This system works best where there is livestock manure but it does also work without manure. We do need to replace the nutrients in the soil that the crop removes but nitrogen we can grow allowing us to purchase much less nitrogen.

  6. I am also a crop consultant. I view the use of RR alfalfa as just another tool to be utilized. I actually have only a handfull of customers that have any interest in this product. I`m just sick and tired of the alarmists who jump on this anti biotech bandwagon, regardless of the science involved in proving a products use.

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