The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Friday upheld a lower-court ruling that unconditionally deregulated alfalfa genetically modified to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The Court of Appeals determined that U.S. agriculture officials correctly deemed that Roundup Ready alfalfa is not considered a plant pest, as plaintiffs had claimed.
“The Court of Appeals’ ruling provides legal certainty for U.S. alfalfa growers,” said Kyle McClain, Monsanto’s chief litigation counsel, in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg Businessweek. “The decision is an important reaffirmation of the federal government’s process for regulating biotechnology-improved crops.”
The recent lawsuit was the second attempt by environmental groups to overturn the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) decision to deregulate the alfalfa. These groups argued that the Roundup Ready Alfalfa would contaminate organic crops and lead to more resistant weeds.
The Plant Protection Act, “does not regulate the types of harms that the plaintiffs complain of,” and the Agriculture Department correctly concluded that Roundup Ready Alfalfa wasn’t a “plant pest,” the appeals court said in its written opinion. “Once the agency concluded that Roundup Ready Alfalfa was not a plant pest, it no longer had jurisdiction to continue regulating the plant.”
The Center for Food Safety, which was one of the plaintiffs, was not pleased by the recent decision and said it will pursue other legal options to “halt the sale and planting of this harmful crop,” the group said in an e-mailed statement.
“This is an irresponsible decision,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director, The Center for Food Safety. “The court acknowledged the many stark environmental and economic impacts of these crops, and yet bends over backwards in allowing USDA to avoid addressing those concerns in its regulatory process.”