Both Sides Optimistic After U.S. Supreme Court Hearing

Lawyers for both Monsanto and environmentalists opposing Roundup Ready alfalfa say oral arguments indicate a finding in their favor.

Published on: Apr 28, 2010

Both sides of the Monsanto vs. Geertson Seed Farms et. al. case, the first case involving genetically modified crops to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, expressed confidence that the court would decide in their favor following oral arguments in the high court on Tuesday morning.

 "American farmers have had their day in court and I am confident they will prevail," said Monsanto General Counsel David Snively.

"I am encouraged. I feel confident that the justices were supportive of our position challenging Monsanto's standing in this case," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, an activist group that opposes all types of biotechnology and advocates for organic farming. CFS brought the initial lawsuit in the case.

The court is likely to rule in 60 to 90 days in the case, which is being closely watched.

A decision for Geertson could set a precedent allowing opponents of genetic engineering to use the court system to overturn decisions made by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of USDA.

Conversely, a decision in favor of Monsanto would send a clear signal that APHIS is the final authority on determining whether a new technology is safe for release and could shut down lawsuits as way for opponents of biotechnology to advance their cause.

The case stems from an APHIS ruling in June 2005 that allowed deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa after an Environmental Assessment and a period of public comment, but without an Environmental Impact Study.

The Center for Food Safety sued, claiming the widespread use would cause damage organic and conventional farmers. It also said allowing the deregulation ahead of a full impact study was a violation of  the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The district court found in favor of Geertson and issued an injunction against further planting, harvesting or sale of seed until an Environmental Impact Study was completed.

Monsanto appealed and requested the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the extent to which "irreparable harm" could occur and, if evidence warranted it, overturn the injunction.

The 9th Circuit refused an evidentiary hearing and upheld the lower court ruling based on documentary evidence.

That led Monsanto to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the court erred in issuing an injunction based on a NEPA violation. It asked the Supreme Court to vacate the injunction and reconfirm the traditional standard that requires a plaintiff to show a likelihood of harm in addition to the mere fact of a NEPA violation.