The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower-court ruling stating that the USDA correctly categorized Monsanto's GMO Roundup-ready alfalfa as not needing regulation.
The suit was the second one filed by environmental groups aiming to overturn the deregulation of GMO alfalfa, arguing that the widely grown crop would cross-pollinate with and contaminate non-GMO alfalfa, and could ultimately damage organic alfalfa crops (grown primarily for organically raised livestock).
Deregulation of GMO alfalfa will also lead to more "superweeds"—plants resistant to Monsanto's Roundup glyphosate-based herbicide. The prevalence of resistant plants and bugs has led to heavier applications of the herbicides and uses of harsher chemicals. (Monsanto and Dow Chemical currently have two soybean varieties pending approval with the USDA that are resistant to dicamba and the chemical 2,4-D, which is best known for its use in Agent Orange.)
According to Bloomberg Businesssweek, "The law at issue, the Plant Protection Act, “does not regulate the types of harms that the plaintiffs complain of,” and the Agriculture Department correctly concluded that Roundup-Ready Alfalfa wasn’t a “plant pest,” the appeals court said in its written opinion. “Once the agency concluded that Roundup-Ready Alfalfa was not a plant pest, it no longer had jurisdiction to continue regulating the plant.”
Monsanto celebrated the victory by stating: “The decision is an important reaffirmation of the federal government’s process for regulating biotechnology-improved crops.”
The plaintiffs in the case, which includes the Center for Food Safety, shared their disappointment, but vow to keep pursuing legal action to “halt the sale and planting of this harmful crop,” the organization said in a statement.
“This is an irresponsible decision,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for CFS. “The court acknowledged the many stark environmental and economic impacts of these crops, and yet bends over backwards in allowing USDA to avoid addressing those concerns in its regulatory process.”
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