U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms

scale_of_justiceToday, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the case of Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms. At stake is a decision issued by California District Court which issued a permanent injunction against any further planting of genetically engineered alfalfa crop in 2007.

The original case was filed in February 2006 by a coalition of alfalfa producers and family farm organizations, as well as several environmental groups such as the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Center for Food Safety, and Beyond Pesticides. The lawsuit was filed against U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), calling the agency’s approval of Monsanto’s alfalfa, the crop genetically modified to tolerate applications of Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide, a threat to farmers’ livelihoods and a risk to the environment. Plaintiffs argued that the USDA acted illegally when it deregulated Monsanto’s GE alfalfa by failing to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS). An EIS is a rigorous analysis of the potential significant impacts of a federal decision. A California District Court sided with plaintiffs and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an EIS.

While the USDA obeyed the ruling, releasing a draft EIS (“DEIS”) on December 14, 2009, which proposed to grant GE alfalfa a deregulated status, Monsanto appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Monsanto’s main argument is that the plaintiffs have not demonstrated evidence of irreparable harm necessary to obtain the injunction and that the Ninth Circuit erred in granting the injunction based only on “remote possibility of reparable harm.”

Stay tuned for a follow up examining the oral argument before the court.