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Supreme Court hears first-ever biotech crop case

Agriculture.com Staff 04/28/2010 @ 10:30am

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today related to overturning a lower court's order that has barred farmers from planting Roundup Ready alfalfa since 2007. The case could set precedent governing other GE crops.

In the case of Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, Monsanto Company and Forage Genetics International argued that a lower court's ban was inappropriate. "Farmers should be able to count on USDA approvals of biotech crops, know that challenges to biotech authorizations must be based on scientific evidence, and have the choice to use this seed technology," said David F. Snively, Monsanto General Counsel.

The case affects alfalfa grown for seed crops. The use and sale of Round-up Ready alfalfa crops as forage has continued, subject to a series of restrictions.

Phil Geertson of Idaho's Geertson Seed Farms, and Pat Trask of South Dakota's Trask Family Seeds argued that a ruling for Monsanto would lead to cross-pollination between GE and conventional plants. It pointed out that it would jeopardize the more than $200 million per year U.S. alfalfa export market, the organic dairy industry and the $25 billion per year organic food market.

The sale and planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed was halted pending completion of an environmental impact statement (EIS) by USDA/APHIS. A total of 145,000 public comments were received.

The EIS was anticipated this year, but the timetable is uncertain. An EIS draft in December 2009 indicated that its decision may be to de-regulate Roundup Ready.

A decision by the Supreme Court is expected by the end of the term in June.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today related to overturning a lower court's order that has barred farmers from planting Roundup Ready alfalfa since 2007. The case could set precedent governing other GE crops.

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