Monsanto Co. asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision to ban the planting of genetically modified alfalfa until an environmental review is completed, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The petition by Monsanto argues that taking biotech alfalfa off the market creates an unnecessary burden for alfalfa hay and seed growers.
"We feel the court took some real drastic actions when it didn’t need to," says Garrett Kasper, company spokesman.
Zelig Golden, staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group, disagrees. Other courts have rejected arguments by Monsanto and USDA, and the Supreme Court should, too, he says.
The Center for Food Safety was part of a coalition of environmental groups and alfalfa growers that sued USDA in 2006, arguing that the agency unlawfully approved Monsanto’s alfalfa, which is genetically modified to resist applications of Roundup herbicide.
In June, a federal appeals court voted 2-1 to uphold a 2007 district court ruling and to maintain a two-year-old injunction preventing growers from planting the crop.
The injunction doesn’t affect growers who have already planted Roundup Ready alfalfa, which makes up about 1 percent of the U.S. crop, the Post-Dispatch reports.
In a separate but similar case, a federal judge last month ruled that USDA unlawfully approved Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets.
The Center for Food Safety is likewise seeking a ban on the planting of genetically modified beets until an environmental impact statement is complete. The group argues a ban is necessary to prevent non-genetically modified sugar beets from being contaminated through cross-pollination.
"The court found that the USDA didn’t do its job," Golden says. "Until it does its job, that harm is a real possibility."
While Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa is planted on relatively few acres, 95 percent of North American sugar beet acreage is planted with Roundup Ready seeds, meaning an injunction could have significant consequences, the company says.
"Our goal is to make sure the judge is aware of the ramifications of that," Kasper explains.
(Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)