News Date: 06/22/2010

The Supreme Court reversed a federal appeals court decision that had banned Monsanto from selling Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA), a genetically modified alfalfa crop, in a 7-1 vote. This was the Supreme Court’s first genetically modified crops case and only Justice John Paul Stevens was in opposition. Justice Stephen Breyer, who is brother to the trial judge, recused himself from the case.

The appeal was based on the decision by APHIS to deregulate RRA. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), requires an environmental impact statement (EIS) unless an interim environmental assessment (EA) finds that the deregulation will not have a significant impact on the environment. After preparing an EA, APHIS granted the petition, finding that deregulation would not have a significant environmental impact.

Respondents such as conventional alfalfa farms and environmental groups filed suit and the district court confirmed that APHIS had violated NEPA. Their decision voided the APHIS deregulation of RRA and required the agency to prepare an EIS before it ruled on Monsanto’s deregulation petition. This effectively halted all planting of RRA. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision. This new finding will remove the injunction and may allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to permit some planting of RRA seed while APHIS releases an EIS.  (By:  Andrew Kim, Contact: Bob Ehart)