6. Supreme Court on Roundup Ready alfalfa (Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed )

This was the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on a biotech case involving crops.

“This one came from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit involving a temporary ban on genetically-modified alfalfa – Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa.

“The key issues were: whether the plaintiffs in the case – who were producers of organic alfalfa seed – were exempt from being required to show a likelihood of irreparable harm to get an injunction under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); and whether the trial court could enter an injunction to remedy a NEPA violation without holding a hearing to resolve factual issues relevant to the scope of the injunction being sought.  

“Bottom line was the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the (lower court) saying ‘you can’t just allege a violation of NEPA to get an exemption. You’ve got to go through a hearing. There has to be an evidentiary hearing, there has to be factual issues resolved, you have to show likelihood of irreparable harm.’

“The Supreme Court said the organic alfalfa seed growers and other conventional alfalfa producers simply couldn’t show irreparable harm. In fact, Justice Scalia mocked their legal counsel at oral arguments on the basis they could show irreparable harm coming from GM alfalfa…

“You have to be able to establish some type of harm to get an injunction. … What happened in this instance is they just didn’t like biotech and they argued it would wipe them out, those type of things. The trial court gave them an injunction.

“But the Supreme Court said ‘there’s no possible way you’ll suffer harm. We’re talking a minuscule amount of acreage. You haven’t shown any evidence of contamination problems. And if you have evidence of that, you’ll get an injunction.’ But they didn’t have anything in this case. They just didn’t want GMOs.

“Even Justice Ginsberg agreed with Scalia: ‘GMOs are here to stay. No matter what your complaints are, we’re not putting the genie back in the bottle. They basically laughed the plaintiffs’ lawyers out of the court room. We could see this would be a nine-to-zero opinion, hands down.”

Note: in January, the USDA fully deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa. For more, see RR alfalfa.

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