Breaking News: Supreme Court Kicks Critical Genetically Modified Alfalfa Issue Down The Road

June 22, 2010
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supreme-courtA high-profile legal battle over genetically modified crops continues. The US Supreme Court in a 7-1 decision yesterday (June 21) did not accept a lower court’s total nationwide ban on GM alfalfa. But it did agree that the seeds could be dangerous and did not allow Monsanto to proceed with selling them. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) must now complete a study examining whether the seeds will harm the environment before approving them for restricted planting, a process that could go into next year, and which could lead to more litigation.

Why is this such an important issue?

Alfalfa, the fourth most widely grown crop in the US, is fed to dairy cows. Our friends at Center for Food Safety (CFS), on behalf of organic farmers, sued to ban the GM alfalfa out of the very real concern that it would spread uncontrollably and take over US pasturelands. When we wrote about this court case in May, we noted that GM foods cause sterility in hamsters, and that the real long-term risks to human health from these foreign molecules are still unknown. True organic beef and dairy products would become an impossibility since all cows would be potentially exposed to the GM alfalfa.

Some quick background

Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology company based in Missouri. It is also the leading producer of genetically modified seed, and sells 90% of the US’s GM seeds. Its development and marketing of GM seed and bovine growth hormone, as well as its aggressive litigation, political lobbying practices, seed commercialization practices, and “strong-arming” of the seed industry and especially of farmers have given the company the nickname “the evil empire” in many quarters. In ANH’s opinion, this nickname is well deserved.

Monsanto is the world’s leading producer of the extremely toxic herbicide glyphosate, marketed as Roundup™. Several weed species, known as superweeds, have developed Roundup resistance largely because of repeated exposure. So Monsanto has created genetically engineered crops—soy, corn, canola, cotton, and alfalfa (with wheat currently in development)—which tolerate the herbicide; they are known as Roundup Ready® crops. Alfalfa is different from the others because it will spread and propagate itself without replanting.

The court case

In 2007, a federal district judge found that the USDA had failed to consider the environmental impact before it had approved the GM alfalfa seeds for commercial planting. He then canceled the USDA’s approval of the seeds, and imposed a national ban on planting them. But the Supreme Court, in yesterday’s 7-to-1 decision, found that the lower court judge had gone too far. The blanket ban prevented the USDA from considering a partial approval of the seeds, a process known as deregulation.

Monsanto cheered the ruling and got its version of events into many major media stories. However, the Supreme Court left in place the lower trial court’s ruling barring the USDA from deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa, and sent the case back down to the lower courts for further proceedings. What this means, as a practical matter, is that the USDA will have to complete the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, including considering more than 200,000 public comments it has received since issuing a draft EIS in December of 2009.

“It should be no surprise that Monsanto’s PR machine is working hard to spin the truth about the decision,” according to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “Despite what the biotech seed giant is claiming, today’s ruling isn’t close to the victory they were hoping for…. While the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto by reversing an injunction that was part of the lower court’s decision, more importantly, it also ruled that the ban on GMO alfalfa remains intact, and that the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa remains illegal.”

“This point, which seems to be lost in some news reports, is actually a huge victory,” Kimbrell continued. “The Supreme Court ruled that an injunction against planting was unnecessary since, under lower courts’ rulings, Roundup Ready alfalfa had become a regulated item and was therefore illegal to plant. In other words, the injunction was ‘overkill’ because our [earlier] victory in lower federal court determined that USDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws when it approved Roundup Ready alfalfa. The court felt that voiding the USDA’s decision to make the crop legally available for sale was enough.”

The L.A. Times quoted Paul Achitoff, a lawyer for Earthjustice, as saying, “To the extent that Monsanto is claiming this a victory, it’s a very hollow one since no one can plant their crops.”


26 Responses to “Breaking News: Supreme Court Kicks Critical Genetically Modified Alfalfa Issue Down The Road”

  1. great post thx

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  2. ken wieser says:

    With all the genetic modification going on just imagine if a geneticist accidentally created a toxic toxic grass or any type of toxic plant that would normally be considered edible by animals and livestock. it could easily destroy our whole ecosystem. these people are playing whth warm nitroglycerin and everything is in the blast zone.

    I am totally against genetic modification as it is every bit as dangerous or even more than the chemicals that the crops created to be resistant to are.At least we can stop using the chemicals but once these genetically modified organisms invade our ecosystem and get onto the wild it is too late.

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  3. Joe Collins says:

    GMO crops are insanity………..The court, if they reprensent we the people, they will strike down the use of all GMO crops………This is the land of “We the People”, isn’t it? Let’s all contact congress and let them know,, they represent us.. and remove those from office that do not support our safety.. Presently congress does not even require labeling of products that are GMO.. Monoplies are suppose to be illegal in America, another violation that congress has allowed.. We obviously need many new senators/representatives in congress..

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  4. Sarah says:

    I used to read articles such as this and think how good it was to know this type of information, but the people who posted seemed like crazy fanatics to me. Now as a student of nutrition and a personal trainer who works to instill the importance of whole, nutrient dense, organic foods to my clients, I find myself becoming one of those crazy fanatics.

    From the current CODEX issues, to the imbalances in the food pyramid, to GM foods, we more than have our work cut out for us in order to overcome the greed and pocket lining that is causing such a digression in our health and well being. We know that those in charge of these companies & the decision makers in the govt. will not consume the poisions that they are producing/allowing, but I wonder if they have realized that as they make it more difficult for the “common people” to obtain truly organic and healthy food that that are doing the same to themselves.

    I certainly hope that our voices can be a wake up call to enough of them to continue making progress in reversing the current path.

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  5. Pennyma2 says:

    I wish Fox News would get involved and start talking about this. A lot of people would be awakend to what Monsanto is doing. They should be called the “Seed Mafia”

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  6. elizabeth says:

    This is insanity, unsustainable … mutant alert!!! Palleez! Will the greed and oberpowerful science just stop and sanity and intelligence rule? So what – that we have technology to do this? SO WHAT? No excuse to make a choice to actually use it. So we can sell more plastic and chemicals. Move on to a better plan, man.

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  7. Ann M says:

    Being raised on a farm and knowing the importance of good seed, I find Monsanto’s practices and principles repulsive. I wish all Americans could rise up and have a greater appreciation for farmers and what they once produced. Other countries are rebelling against this company, why don’t we?
    When I tell people I try to buy locally grown organic foods and grass fed/free range meats, they look at me like I’m nuts. They just say, it’s too expensive. I even explained how Monsanto is crippling farming worldwide with their “pricing” policies for their seed, and they’re OK with that.
    I often wonder how one comes to “OWN” seed! I do not eat seedless foods, period. I remember how precious the seed was on our farm. I don’t want to eat something that the seed can only be bought from Monsanto. And as much as I value cotton fabrics I won’t buy any if I know the manufacturer uses Monsanto-blessed cotton with all the inbred chemicals.
    I only represent the two people in my household and our buying power, but if enough of us did the same, it might cripple this goliath.

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  8. Dyck Dewid says:

    I am delighted by those who left comments… showing such care and loving intention. I’m grateful. This indicates a strong higher or spiritual side (maybe a seeker side) that seems at the heart of whatever behavior results in each of us. Yet, even with loving intention I acknowledge there is the everyday duality of life.

    For example, my intention is to love all things, including earth, and to see the connection… the one-ness of all things. Yet, I use more energy than I could, live more comfortably than I ought, invest banks that propagate unhealthy business and fast money, I want things I don’t need, I find abhorring violence and war yet I sometimes hurt the ones I love, I criticize others for making too much money but I never feel I have enough to be comfortable, I hate corporate bullying and lobbying but worked for such a company 25 years, I consider myself honest yet didn’t come forward when a large company made an error in my favor, and on and on. This doesn’t seem confined to just me does it? I’m just putting myself out here to show it doesn’t really hurt to ‘discover’ something about yourself. But, it does create a life of self-examination and seeking what is real w/o self-deception.

    So, w/o self deprecation I’m putting myself at the heart of and having some responsibility for most of the problems I see. This enables me to approach ‘problems’ not w ‘they’ but along side others, saying ‘we’. For example, its not the Student who Fails is the government, community, the school, the teacher, and the parent who are failing… so what can WE do?

    I want to mention what I think would be of interest to many of you… it’s called The Shift Network and is a group on FB. This is a huge community of mostly sincere and innocent people w various events (including free teleconf) that may help w our journey.

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  9. Richard Hurlburt says:

    If anyone does any research, they know that GMO food is dangerous to your health, if not why does Monsanto will not serve any GMO foods at there picknic and parties, they won’t eat them why should we.
    We must wake up and smell the roses, not modify them so only your roundup will kill the parasites
    and not the food, but the food will kill us.
    I read a story about a farmer that harvested his GMO cotton, let his sheep into to clean it up. the next day all his sheep were dead.
    That is what we are feeding our cattle, our children and families, do money mean that much to law makers that they let people like Monsanto to make products that cause so much damage.

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  10. Jerry Segers says:

    Dyck –

    I believe you have hit at the heart of the matter, but there is a clean way out. It is possible to make large sums of money and still be ethical. While there once were many companies focused on making money by ethical means, most of those companies have been overrun by the Monsanto’s of the world. In my view, the larger the company the more likely they are corrupt.

    How did that happen? First we gave the management of the companies over to people that are only responsible to the owners in the stock market. These people are hired and trained to make as much money as possible and the owners care not how they do it. Next we allowed the companies to get so large they ” Can not fail”. Therefore they can effectively buy the government they need to prosper, and finally, the customers of those companies chose cheap over everything else aided and abetted by our Government.

    For years, the agriculture departments at the State and National levels have funded research aimed at producing cheap food. (Read more production with less input) To my knowledge there has never been ANY research grant aimed at producing better quality food, only more food for the same or less money.

    So who is at fault. I claim, it is you, me and millions of others like us. Each of us that owns stock in these companies keep pushing for more money, never looking at how it is made and as a consumer, we each chose to eat the cheap food because we succumbed to the very same greed that you have observed. I know I did and my health clearly shows it.

    Several years ago I researched this problem and concluded that the proper way to choose food is to eat less and pay more. The “pay more” part gets me food that has less genetic modification and closer to “Real Food”s with less “Processed Foods”. The “eat less” is possible because the better quality foods fill me up quicker and taste better. As a result my health is improving and I am no longer giving money to companies that are doing the wrong thing. Instead, I am supporting my neighborhood farmer in his endeavor to raise a family and protect the environment. On the other side, I could never own stock in a any drug company or any company like Monsanto.

    On the good side, It appears there are thousands, if not millions of people like me that have recently awoken to the problem. You can see the effect in the grocery store where there are more and more foods going back to real sugar. There are many people that are opting for cane sugar instead of GMO beet sugar and purchasing non-processed foods from local farmers when possible. Others are just now learning that the words USDA Organic on the label actually means no genetically modified ingredients.

    This ruling for/against Monsanto is just another step along the road to recovery. If you and I and millions of other start voting with our dollars, to pay more and eat less the movement will quickly gain traction thus make such future lawsuits unnecessary because the companies will fail if they do not provide the foods people are willing to spend their money to get. At the same time, we will all get better health as a result of the change in diet.

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    • Barbara Rafter says:

      Yes, we eat this way. Also, not feeding others food we would not eat ourselves. Lord, have mercy on this country to bring us out from under such large corrupt companies.

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  11. Gail Lyall says:

    Dyck, how many people are you killing by your selfishness, greed and materialism? The point is, if you are as you say (i.e., greedy, want money, things, fame, control, power, etc.) perhaps you are hurting yourself and those who love you (not all selfishness is bad, only if it hurts others–in fact, some people would argue that all actions are selfish but that’s another matter). Monsanto is hurting EVERYONE and is doing so with the government’s BLESSING!!

    It is time (and this is happening and I agree with Jayamaa) for those of us who value and live our lives with integrity, honesty, generosity, kindness and more–to fight the government, fight Monsanto, Big Pharma, etc. with our voices, our dollars, our hearts and minds, our prayers, our organizations. Having the right mindset (meaning not giving in to negativity), including prayer, can create miracles.

    If enough of us change our consciousness, then this change can eventually find its way to Monsanto (corrupt company that it is) and other companies like it. A slow process, to be sure, but there is definitely a movement to not give up our freedoms–of any kind–especially our right to not be forced to grow and/or consume GMO/GE food.

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  12. c a durnan says:

    Maybe this federal court judge in his next life would be happy to be fed all these genetically altered food stuffs, even in th e womb and wouldn’t mind having 8 legs and three eyes. The earth will provide for future generations in what-ever state we and others decide it should be. Responsibility vs Providence.

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  13. tracy says:

    I wonder who the 1 stand alone vote was…Clarence Thomas perhaps??? A former MONSANTO lawyer????? The current head of the USDA is a former Monsanto exec also, can you say conflict of interest???

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    • ANH-USA says:

      Justice John Paul Stevens was the court’s lone dissenter. Justice Stephen Breyer was recused because his brother was the trial judge in the lower court case. Justice Thomas–former council to Monsanto–did not think that ruling on the case was a conflict of interest. Hummm…

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  14. Brooke says:

    Good news! We’ll keep fighting….as long as it takes.

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  15. Dyck Dewid says:

    What can make ‘weak’ human nature bullet proof to big money and power influence? Although many of us object to this, I wonder if we can recognize our contribution. When I look at myself and my ability to uphold my principles… there are certainly weaknesses I must deal with (or cave-in to). A few are: my own greed and want for money, things, fame, control, power. So, what makes me think that on a corporate level these people aren’t seeking the same as me… only they figured out how on a larger scale. So, what a quandary… I hate these seemingly predatory, greedy, unscrupulous people………………………….. yet I am one, no?

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    • Lois Hutson says:

      I am not perfect, but I can catch myself thinking of the unkind or awful thing to do and stop it when it comes to the doing of it …..

      if you can’t I am sorry …… but if you can’t beat em, join em …. is not the answer

      you sound to be a young man … what your eyes witness and your ears hear can change human urges
      especially when you see the suffering you cause … if you have one … follow your heart not your mental greediness

      the fact that you own the wayward mental thoughts and do not deny them says to me that you are definitely not one of “them” …..it is when you can see the harm you do and don’t care that makes you your own worst enemy.

      and the really depraved are the ones who see it and do it anyway.

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    • Rodney Mansfield says:

      Thank you Dyck for your candor. Monsanto and other multi-national corporations could not wreak their havoc if not for the greed and apathy of the masses who buy their stock and products. But I don’t think people are greedy by nature. People are altruistic by nature. They become greedy through training and by having their basic social and community needs denied. In a community setting where people are free to work for the benefit of the community people know they are a meaningful part of a greater good and greed rarely becomes a problem. But our society has been designed to make us consumers, seeking meaning from consuming instead of from serving. The tragedy is that the more we consume the more we become addicted to consumption, even as we realize that it is failing to give us meaning or happiness. Only be simplicity, service and re-creating community can we win the war against Monsanto.

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    • Danielle says:

      No your not one! The fact that you are contemplative and asking the question means you are in the process of evolving in your thinking…when it feels bad enough to you in the part of your brain that is questioning whatever you feel bad about then you will stop the behavior and be closer to living in personal integrity…..and it should be noted that personal integrity is different for every person.

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  16. Jayamaa says:

    Monsanto is being overcome by the forces of wholesomeness, thank heaven. Keep up the righteous struggle ANH!

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  17. Lois Hutson says:

    The supreme (ha ha) court is bought and paid for by big money.

    Do not expect anything resembleing integrity or honesty from them?

    If you ever doubted it remember the decision to let unlimited money from big organizations be allowed from them to buy elections should have been a wake up call for you.

    This country should fly its flag at half mast in mourning of the sell out and not be raised again until integrity is re-established.

    If anyone thinks that there will be no consequence to what is happening in the market place today
    you are sadly, sadly mistaken

    bye bye Atlantis

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  18. Herschel Dosier says:

    What could be more important than protecting our food supply from the likes of Monsanto, the American Dietetic Association, poisonous herbicides, genetically modified food products and their producers?

    We have to look no further than the Roman Empire, which evidently was destroyed because of the lead in their water pipes. Yet our society has allowed tens of thousands of chemicals to contaminate our food supply.

    For the sake of our children, our society, and our historical future, enough already. NO MORE alteration or contamination of our food supply!

    The sooner we get back to organic food like our great-grandparents grew, the better our chances of survival.

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    • [email protected] says:

      We, agreed 100% of eliminating all these chemicals from the food, the water and also from the air on the sky with the trails of contaminant for our plants and farms. We do not know if all these monsanto and who ever is with them if they are from our Planet or if they are extra terrestial due to the fact tha also live here on earth and why they doing this crimes, which no more than crime to our human life.

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