Judge Orders Complete Environmental Review of Monsanto’s Gene-Altered Alfalfa

San Francisco, CA — A Federal judge ruled on May 3 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) 2005 approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) “Roundup Ready” alfalfa was illegal. Judge Charles Breyer called on USDA to ban any further planting of the GE seed until it conducts a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the GE crop.

Judge Breyer’s ruling echoed the Center for Food Safety’s arguments in their lawsuit against USDA, that the crop could harm the environment and contaminate natural alfalfa. The Center for Food Safety was joined in the lawsuit by Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, The Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms.

Breyer’s ruling also requires Forage Genetics to provide the locations of all existing Roundup Ready alfalfa plots to USDA within 30 days. The Judge ordered USDA to make the location of these plots “publicly available as soon as practicable” so that growers of organic and conventional alfalfa “can test their own crops to determine if there has been contamination.”

“This permanent halt to the planting of this risky crop is a great victory for the environment,” said Will Rostov, a Senior Attorney for CFS. “Roundup Ready alfalfa poses threats to farmers, to our export markets, and to the environment. We expect the USDA to abide by the law and insure that American farmers are protected from genetic contamination.”

“This ruling protects the ability of farmers producing organic meat and milk to obtain non-GMO alfalfa seed to grow feed for their animals and preserve the organic integrity of their products,” said Jim Munsch, a certified organic livestock producer from Coon Valley, Wisconsin and member of The Cornucopia Institute.

“This is precedent-setting. For the first time the courts have intervened on a USDA ruling to ensure that proper environmental evaluation and consideration for the livelihood of family farmers are accounted for and balance the desires of large companies,” Munsch added. (Click here to view a fact-sheet on genetically-engineered alfalfa.)

Today’s decision is consistent with Judge Breyer’s ruling of February 13th, in which Judge Breyer found that the USDA failed to address concerns that Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa. In calling today for a permanent injunction, Judge Breyer noted that contamination of natural and organic alfalfa by the GE variety has already occurred, and noted that “Such contamination is irreparable environmental harm. The contamination cannot be undone.”

The permanent injunction ordered today by Judge Breyer follows his ruling last month finding that USDA violated national environmental laws by approving GE alfalfa without a full Environmental Impact Statement.

Monsanto and Forage Genetics, the developers of the GE alfalfa seed, failed to convince the Judge that their interests outweighed the public interest in food safety, freedom to farm natural crops, and environmental protection. In fact, Judge Breyer specifically noted that Monsanto’s fear of lost sales “does not outweigh the potential irreparable damage to the environment.”

For more information, please visit www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

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