US Supreme Court to review delay on Monsanto's Roundup Ready Alfalfa

The US Supreme Court has granted Monsanto Company's petition seeking review of a federal district court order, which halted planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2007, pending completion of an environmental impact study by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"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. "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. We believe alfalfa growers deserve choice in the products that are available to them," he added.

Monsanto filed the petition with the US Supreme Court in October 2009, arguing that the 2007 injunction by Judge Charles R Breyer should not have been ordered without first holding an evidentiary hearing. As a result, the ban imposed unnecessary restrictions and costs on alfalfa hay and seed growers.

Monsanto and 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 EIS.

Monsanto said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had reviewed the Roundup Ready alfalfa and that it was also approved by the USDA before it first went on the market in 2005. Prior to the injunction, Roundup Ready alfalfa was planted by approximately 5,500 growers over 263,000 acres.

Although alfalfa is the fourth-largest crop grown in the US with 23 million acres grown in 48 US states annually, only about 1 per cent is currently Roundup Ready, it noted.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) completed a draft environment impact study in late 2009 and recently announced the 60-day open comment period for the draft EIS would occur between 18 December  2009, and 16 February 2010.