ST. LOUIS -- In a 7-1 ruling with one abstention today, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court's order that has prohibited farmers from planting Roundup Ready alfalfa for the past three years.
"This Supreme Court ruling is important for every American farmer, not just alfalfa growers," said David F. Snively, Monsanto's Senior Vice President and General Counsel. "All growers can rely on the expertise of USDA, and trust that future challenges to biotech approvals must now be based on scientific facts, not speculation."
The opinion of the court, written by Justice Samuel Alito, stated that the district court abused its discretion when it prohibited the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2007. Today's ruling will allow USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to take appropriate action to allow further planting while they complete the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The opinion concluded that the lower court's injunction on Roundup Ready alfalfa "cannot stand."
Justice John Paul Stevens, in a lengthy dissent, wrote: "It was
reasonable for the court to conclude that planting could not go forward
until more complete study ... showed that the known problem of gene flow
could in reality be prevented." Justice Stephen Breyer took no part in consideration or decision of the case because, according to the Associated Press, his brother,
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, issued the initial
ruling against Monsanto.
The case will now be remanded to the lower court with the instruction to allow APHIS to decide which interim measures will need to be established in order to allow growers to resume planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa.
"This is exceptionally good news received in time for the next planting season. Farmers have been waiting to hear this for quite some time," said Steve Welker, Monsanto's alfalfa business lead. "We have Roundup Ready alfalfa seed ready to deliver and await USDA guidance on its release. Our goal is to have everything in place for growers to plant in fall 2010."
Roundup Ready alfalfa successfully completed a food safety review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was granted non-regulated status by USDA in 2005. A separate review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the use of Roundup on the crop to be safe. Prior to the injunction, Roundup Ready alfalfa was planted by approximately 5,500 growers across more than 220,000 acres. Alfalfa is the fourth-largest crop grown in the U.S. with 23 million acres grown in 48 U.S. states annually.
The case is available online here: www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/09-475.pdf
SOURCE: Monsanto Company and the U.S. Supreme Court.