On April 27, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments over whether a lower court acted hastily or incorrectly in placing an injunction on the cultivation of Roundup Ready alfalfa. A court decision is expected by June.
Yesterday, a coalition of agricultural organizations filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court in support of the petitioners in "Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms." The brief was submitted by American Farm Bureau Federation, Biotechnology Industry Organization, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council and National Potato Council.
The groups urge that the lower courts' decision to approve an injunction without adequately hearing the key evidence must be reversed "to protect the farmers who choose to grow genetically-engineered crops, as well as the public benefits that agricultural biotechnology brings to producers and consumers around the world."
In the Ninth Circuit court case, environmental groups and individual organic alfalfa farmers sued USDA, claiming that its decision to grant deregulated status to glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) alfalfa violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
The friend-of-the-court brief challenges that the lower court's injunction against biotech alfalfa, however, was made without the court conducting a thorough review of evidence that precluded a finding of irreparable harm. And, it contends the Ninth Circuit Court failed to consider the public benefits of agricultural biotechnology, already is adopted for a number of key crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and papaya.
USDA'S Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service complied with the lower court ruling, and recently completed its draft safety study. Again, no significant impact or risk on the human environment was found. And once again, APHIS has recommended that Roundup Ready alfalfa be deregulated and that farmers be allowed to grow it.
This is the first time the high court will weigh in on the risks of genetically engineered crops. Of the more than 10,000 cases appealed to the Supreme Court each year, only about 1% are accepted for review on the merits and oral arguments.