Federal Court Upholds Ban On Genetically-Engineered Alfalfa
By Joseph Mendelson
Center for Food Safety
September 2, 2008
Appeals Court Rules Planting of Biotech Crop Can Cause Irreversible Harm to Organic and Conventional Crops, Farmers, and the Environment
Washington, DC - In a decision handed down today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has 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.
Although the suit was brought against United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); Forage Genetics and Monsanto Company 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. "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."
Today's decision upholds District Court Judge Charles Breyer's earlier ruling of May 2007, in which he found that the USDA failed to address concerns that Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa. 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.
The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the following co-plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms. For more information, please visit www.centerforfoodsafety.org .