January 18th, from the Lincoln Journal Star Online (http://journalstar.com/business/local/article_fd692764-045a-11df-8cb9-001cc4c03286.html)
The U.S. Supreme Court granted Monsanto Co.’s petition for review of a federal district court order that stopped planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2007, pending completion of an environmental impact statement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in 2007 halted the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa across the country in response to a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Roundup Ready crops are genetically engineered to resist the Monsanto herbicide Roundup, which allows more efficient killing of weeds around and in the crop.
Breyer ruled that federal authorities had failed to fully consider the public health, economic and environmental consequences before allowing the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa. The Center for Food Safety had sued on behalf of farmers who complained the genetically engineered seed could contaminate organic and conventional alfalfa.
About 263,00 acres of genetically modified alfalfa already had already been planted across the United States by about 5,500 growers, including hundreds of acres in Nebraska, when the judge imposed the order. He did not require those crops to be removed.
Alfalfa, which is used for livestock feed and can be planted in spring or fall, is the nation’s fourth largest and is crop grown on about 23 million acres in the country. California is the nation’s largest alfalfa producer, growing the crop on about 1 million acres, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley.
“USDA’s regulatory approval process was short-circuited without any hearing to consider the views of impacted farmers and consideration of sound science,” said Stephen P. Welker, Monsanto Alfalfa and Sugarbeet Lead, in a press release. “We view the Supreme Court’s action to hear our appeal as important for American farmers and look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court in the coming months.”
Monsanto said it and its partner in the crop, Forage Genetics, petitioned the appellate court twice between 2007 and 2008 to fully consider the scientific evidence and tailor any relief ordered pending the governmental agency completion of an environmental impact statement.
Roundup Ready alfalfa was reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and was also approved by the USDA before it first went on the market in 2005.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service completed a draft environmental impact satement said the 60-day open comment period for the draft EIS would occur between Dec. 18, 2009, and Feb. 16.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is not taking part in the case because U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, who issued the initial ruling against Monsanto, is his brother.
The case is Monsanto v. Geerston Seed Farms, 09-475.
USDA’s (APHIS) Comment Period Open
USDA released its draft EIS on December 14, 2009. A 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010. This is the first time the USDA has done this type of analysis for any GE crop. Therefore, the final decision will have broad implications for all GE crops.
Comments are due February 16, 2010. For written, mailed comments please send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044.
Comments can also be filed online at: http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#submitComment?R=0900006480a6b7a1
Review the draft EIS here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/downloads/alfalfa/gealfalfa_deis.pdf