Supreme Court to Hear Monsanto’s GMO Alfalfa Appeal; Consumer Comment Period on USDA Review Now Open

January 18th, from the Lincoln Journal Star Online (

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:

Review the draft EIS here:

Review Supplemental documents here:

To review the position of the Center for Food Safety (which brought the suit that resulted in the initial injunction) visit:

5 Comments on Supreme Court to Hear Monsanto’s GMO Alfalfa Appeal; Consumer Comment Period on USDA Review Now Open

  1. Where do I begin. Monsanto has been creating GM crop seeds for some time and really these haven’t been adequately tested. There was a recent study showing GM corn is harmful to organs, especially filtering organs such as the liver, kidneys..etc. As Americans we eat a disproportionately large amount of corn in our diet as it not only infiltrates our food, but beverages, livestock etc. Now if you add alfalfa to the list of GM crops our cattle and other ruimenant livestock will from cradle to grave eat GM foods which could have unknown effects on their DNA and future generations of their offspring. GM crops have the nature of also cross pollenating with non-GM varieties putting farmers who choose to avoid GM crops at risk of prosecution from Monsanto.
    On top of all this, patenting a lifeform is wrong. I actually avoid growing my heirloom corn varieties when my neighbors have GM corn in their fields for fear that Monsanto will bring up patent infringement suits against me for saving seed from my heirloom corn which may have been contaminated with their GM variety.
    Please, Please…I beg…Don’t let Monsanto put out yet another frankenfood. Its shameful they have such a foothold already.

  2. I know, It’s a complex and multifaceted issue. I agree that there is ample evidence to suggest that the vetting system, split between USDA, FDA, and EPA is poorly organized, based on the questionable assumption of ‘substantial equivalence’, and is reliant on data produced by applicants themselves, which raises huge questions about its thoroughness, and integrity.

    California has passed a law which bans lawsuits brought by GM Corporations. against farmers whose crops were contaminated. But as far as I know, it is the only state that has so far taken this step. And contamination can have negative consequences for some farmers beyond the prospect of litigation. In a survey done almost 8 years ago, Organic Farming Research Foundation found that 8% reported incurring direct financial costs or damages related to GMO’s.

    Whatever we might think about the patenting of life, the Supreme Court has rule consistently in favor of it for decades, so that may not be the most productive front upon which to wage the battle.

    If I see a chink in the armor, it’s the fact that there have really only been two traits that have been widely approved (Roundup Ready, and BT). And though crops which carry them have indeed become dominant within agriculture (owing primarily to the fact that the vast majority of three of our largest crops – corn, soy, and cotton, carry one or more of them), resistance to both traits has emerged as a major problem within a very short time.

    Monsanto’s strategy to blame misuse of the technology by their farmer-customers can’t help but instill resentment within this community. I believe that this is actually the group with the best chance to challenge the biotech corporations successfully. I am pro-American Farmer all the way. I have tremendous respect, even for those who are locked into the treadmill. And I refuse to underestimate them.

    Monsanto is powerful enough that the protests of small and organic farmers, health advocates, and environmentalists, though important, can easily be overcome by it’s ubiquity within every branch and institution of government, as well as by it’s ability to lobby and litigate with financial resources that are difficult to match.

    Our best hope may be to try to overcome our differences and bond together with conventional farmers based on our shared values, and commitment to sustaining autonomous and economically sustainable agricultural enterprises. To engage in informed and empathic discourse about our shared desire for independence and autonomy.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have much influence over the GMO approval process, except in my humble efforts to inform through this website, write an occasional letter, and to encourage communication and activism among farmers, who have been (unnecessarily in my opinion) fighting each other on ideological grounds for far too long.

    Please keep sharing your views on the site.

    Taylor Reid

  3. I am a small goat raiser in Northern California. I used to feed my goats alfalfa hay and dry COB. COB being a mixture of corn, oats, and barley. Several years ago my goats stopped eating the corn in the COB. They would actually pick out the oats and barley and leave the corn in the feeder. It was brought to my attention that “feed corn” was now all GMO corn. At the same time I noticed that our chickens were not eating the corn in their scratch grains. I stopped buying the COB and now purchase oats and barley and mix them myself. What am I going to do if farmers start raising GMO alfalfa, the primary feed of my goats. Please don’t let this happen.

  4. As a beekeeper and honey producer I worry that GMO alfalfa has not be proven to be safe for pollenating insects. Given Monsanto’s track record as an agriculture bully, I do not trust thier word that it is safe. Further indipendent testing needs to be done before they are given a blank check to promote this product. There tactics in pushing non-GMO seed producers has also been most alarming. There goal seems to be to become “The Company”. This is just wrong.


    Tim Fulton

    • Tim,

      You raise several important points, and I will address one of them specifically. The problem with independent testing is that licensing agreements for GM crops often require often stifle the ability of scientists to test these crops by requiring that they get permission from the company before doing research, and often that they share the results with the companies before they publish. I know it sounds crazy, but in many cases, the only people allowed to research GM crops are those sanctioned by the company, and the company itself. A recent Scientific American opinion piece has condemned this, but it seems unlikely to change. For more info on this situation see:

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