Supreme Court overturns alfalfa seed ruling

Hoard's Dairyman: 

Supreme Court overturns alfalfa seed ruling

Date: 
Mon, 06/21/2010

On a 7 to 1 vote, the United States Supreme Court reversed an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer that placed a nationwide injunction on planting Roundup Ready Alfalfa and barring USDA from partially deregulating Roundup Ready Alfalfa pending the court ordered environmental review.

“The good news is this decision reinforces USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) as the science-based agency with sole authority on regulation, deregulation, and permitting of biotech traits in crop plants,” says Forage Genetics International president Mark McCaslin, whose organization helped develop Roundup Ready Alfalfa.

While the Supreme Court reversed the injunction, it is not full steam ahead. “What was appealed was the injunction on future plantings. That original injunction prevented USDA-APHIS from partially deregulating Roundup Ready Alfalfa while they conducted the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement),” said McCaslin. “That is where the Supreme Court said that the U.S. District Court overstepped . . . by telling USDA-APHIS what they could and could not do. This decision supports the concept that these types of decisions should be based on sound science. With the injunction going away, it is now in USDA’s domain again,” says McCaslin. “Hopefully, we are in the home stretch with the final EIS and a permanent deregulation situation.”

Short term, it is up to APHIS if they want to allow permit or partial deregulation which would allow producers to plant Roundup Ready Alfalfa. “While the Supreme Court decision is good news, it is not a green light to go out and buy and plant Roundup Ready Alfalfa seed. There would have to be action by USDA-APHIS for that,” says McCaslin. Long-term, this Supreme Court decision is not only a positive for this case involving Roundup Ready Alfalfa but what it implies for biotech traits and crops in general.

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