No GMO Alfalfa in the USA! Courts rule!

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case brought by
Monsanto to stop the current injunction on planting GM alfalfa in the
U.S., has upheld the injunction! The National Farmers Union brought
forward Canada’s experience with GM canola to support the case. Now the US Department of Agriculture will be the deciding party on GM alfalfa – they
are preparing their final Environmental Impact Statement (as ordered by
the courts). Canadian groups also submitted comments to the USDA as part
of this process.

You can write to your MP today to support alfalfa farmers and request that
your MP supports Bill C-474 http://www.cban.ca/474action

July 21

SUPREME COURT ruling in “Monsanto Case” is victory for Center for Food Safety, Farmers

High Court Delivers Ruling That Leaves Ban on Planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa in Place in First-Ever Case on a Genetically-engineered Crop

Washington, DC June 21, 2010 – The Center for Food Safety today celebratedthe United States Supreme Court’s decision in Monsanto v. Geerston Farms, the first genetically modified crop case ever brought before the Supreme Court.  Although the High Court decision reverses parts of the lower courts’ rulings, the judgment holds that a vacatur bars the planting of
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation
occurs.  It is a victory for the Center for Food Safety and the Farmers
and Consumers it represents.

“The Justices’ decision today means that the selling and planting of
Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal.  The ban on the crop will remain in
place until a full and adequate EIS is prepared by USDA and they
officially deregulate the crop.  This is a year or more away according to
the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further
litigation if the agency’s analysis is not adequate,” said Andrew
Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “In sum, it’s
a significant victory in our ongoing fight to protect farmer and consumer
choice, the environment and the organic industry.”

In the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court held:
“In sum…the vacatur of APHIS’s deregulation decision means that
virtually no RRA (Roundup Ready Alfalfa) can be grown or sold until such
time as a new deregulation decision is in place, and we also know that any
party aggrieved by a hypothetical future deregulation decision will have
ample opportunity to challenge it, and to seek appropriate preliminary
relief, if and when such a decision is made.” (Opinion at p. 22).

The Court also held that:

*   Any further attempt to commercialize RRA even in part may require an
EIS subject to legal challenge.

*   The Court further recognized that the threat of transgenic
contamination is harmful and onerous to organic and conventional farmers
and that the injury allows them to challenge future biotech crop
commercializations in court.

USDA indicated at the Supreme Court argument that full deregulation is
about a year away and that they will not pursue a partial deregulation in
the interim.  Any new attempt at deregulation in full or part will be
subject to legal challenge.

“The bottom line is that the Supreme Court set aside the injunction
because the vacating of the commercialization decision already gave us all
the relief we needed, by forbidding RRA planting until a new decision is
made by the agency.  And at such time, farmers and consumers still have
the right to challenge the adequacy of that process.” said George
Kimbrell, senior staff attorney for CFS.  “The Court’s decision affirmed
that the threat of genetic contamination of natural plants posed by
biotech crops is an issue of significant environmental concern now and in
the future.”

In this case, CFS faced off against powerful opposing entities, including
the Department of Agriculture and the agricultural biotech giant, Monsanto
Corporation. The Center and the other respondents were supported by a
broad array of diverse interests, marshalling no less than seven amicus
briefs in support.  The amici included three states’ attorneys general,
leading scientific experts, legal scholars, former government officials,
farmers, exporters, environmental groups, food companies and organic
industry trade groups.  The Organic Trade association and companies like
Stonyfield Farms, Cliff Bar and Eden Foods voiced united concern over the
threat a ruling for Monsanto would pose to the organic food businesses,
the fastest growing sector in the American food industry.   Attorneys
general from California, Oregon and Massachusetts filed a brief on behalf
of their citizens emphasizing “the States’ interests in protecting the
environment, their natural resources and their citizens’ rights to be
informed about the environmental impacts of federal actions.” A full list
of the more than sixty organizations, companies and individuals who filed
briefs in support of CFS and opposed to Monsanto can be viewed at
http://truefoodnow.org/publications/supreme-court-briefs/.

Monsanto was supported by a bloc of powerful corporate interests and
industry groups, including the American Farm Bureau, the Biotechnology
Industry Organization, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce, and CropLife America.

The environmental, health, cultural, and economic impacts of the
genetically-engineered alfalfa seed, which is designed to be immune to
Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup, and the USDA’s plan to
commercialize it, was at the heart of this dispute since 2006, when CFS
filed a lawsuit against the USDA on behalf of a coalition of non-profits
and farmers who wanted to retain the choice to grow non-GE alfalfa.
Central to the issue is unwanted transgenetic drift: GE alfalfa can spread
uncontrollably by way of bees that can cross-pollinate plants many miles
away, contaminating both conventional and organic alfalfa with foreign
DNA, patented by Monsanto.

“We brought this case to court because I and other conventional farmers
will no doubt suffer irreversible economic harm if the planting of GE
alfalfa is allowed,” said plaintiff Phil Geerston.  “It was simply a
question of our survival, and though we did not win on all points of the
law, we are grateful that the practical result of today’s ruling is that
Monsanto cannot take away our rights and Roundup Ready alfalfa cannot
threaten our livelihoods.”

Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the U.S., and a key source
of dairy forage. Organic and conventional farmers faced the loss of their
businesses due to widespread contamination from Monsanto’s patented GE
alfalfa, and the foreseeable contamination of feral or wild alfalfa would
ensure an ongoing and permanent source of transgenic pollution in wild
places akin to that of invasive species.  The New York Times (link)
recently covered the epidemic of super-weeds Monsanto’s Roundup Ready
crops are causing across the country.

Further background information on the history of this case and scientific
studies are available at
http://truefoodnow.org/publications/supreme-court-briefs/.

#  #  #

The Center for Food Safety is national, non-profit, membership
organization, founded in 1997, that works to protect human health and the
environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and
by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. On the
web at:
http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org

George A. Kimbrell | gkimbrell@icta.org
Senior Staff Attorney
The Center For Food Safety
2601 Mission Street
Suite 803
San Francisco, CA 94110
Ph: 415-826-2770 l  Fax: 415-826-0507

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