Monsanto prepares to go before Supreme Court to challenge alfalfa ban

Monsanto Co. filed a final reply brief with the U.S. Supreme Court this week in preparation for oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday on the biotech company’s challenge to a three-year-old ban on planting its genetically modified alfalfa seeds.

“This case is about fairness and choice for farmers,” said David Snively, Monsanto’s general counsel. “Farmers should be able to count on USDA approvals of biotech crops and know that any challenges to those approvals will be reviewed based on scientific evidence.”

In January, the Supreme Court said it would consider overturning a 2007 court order that has blocked Monsanto from selling alfalfa seeds that are genetically modified to resist its Roundup weed killer.

Five friends-of-the-court briefs have been filed in support of Monsanto by a total of 18 groups: American Farm Bureau Federation, Biotechnology Industry Organization, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council and National Potato Council, Sugarbeet Growers Association, U.S. Beet Sugar Association and National Corn Growers Association, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Home Builders, CropLife America, The Washington Legal Foundation, Allied Education Foundation and the Pacific Legal Foundation. Find all of Monsanto’s court briefs in the alfalfa case here.

Roundup Ready alfalfa was reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and was approved by U.S. Department of Agriculture, and first went on the market in 2005.

Opponents claim that Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds contaminate other crops, and that Roundup Ready promotes superweeds, weeds that cannot easily be killed because they have developed a tolerance to weed killer. The Center for Food Safety filed a 2006 lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of non-profits and farmers who wanted to retain the choice to plant non-modified alfalfa. The Center for Food Safety won the case and two appeals by Monsanto in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2008 and 2009. Now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

Monsanto defends its products, saying that cross-pollination is unlikely and that the environment benefits because less weed killer would be used.

The Center For Food Safety said the attorneys general of California, Oregon and Massachusetts filed a brief on behalf of their citizens supporting the center, emphasizing the “states’ interests in protecting their natural resources and their citizens’ rights to be informed about the environmental impacts of federal actions.”

Other groups supporting the Center for Food Safety are organic businesses, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, some farmers and more than a dozen law professors, scholars and several former general counsels of the Council on Environmental Quality. Find all of the Center for Food Safety briefs here.

St. Louis Business Journal – by Kelsey Volkmann

Prior to Judge Charles Breyer’s injunction, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa was planted by about 5,500 growers across 263,000 acres. Alfalfa is the fourth-largest crop grown in the U.S. with 23 million acres grown in 48 U.S. states annually.

Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Monsanto (NYSE: MON), led by Chairman, President and Chief Executive Hugh Grant, reported a $2.1 billion profit on record sales of $11.7 billion for fiscal 2009 ended Aug. 31. It is one of the largest employers in St. Louis with 4,000 local employees. It has 21,700 workers worldwide.

One response to “Monsanto prepares to go before Supreme Court to challenge alfalfa ban

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