US Supreme Court to hear case against Monsanto re GMO foods

US Ssupreme CourtMonsanto is in the news yet again.

The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on April 27th on a case involving genetically engineered alfalfa. But the case could have much larger ramifications – for Monsanto and for farmers across the country.

Known as Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, the case addresses the concern – by farmers and environmentalists alike – that genetically modified alfalfa can cross-contaminate non-GE alfalfa, an issue already evidenced with GE corn. The cross contamination makes these crops non-compliant with federal standards and eliminates the 
export of conventional or organic alfalfa to the many countries that
forbid GE alfalfa.

 (AP Photo/Greenpeace,Melvyn Calderon,HO)

(AP Photo/Greenpeace,Melvyn Calderon,HO)

This is just the latest court challenge to Monsanto’s genetically modified seed program. In June 2009, the court upheld an earlier ruling that there had been a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. They then required USDA to do a full Environmental Impact Statement (which had never been completed for any GE crop). The court also upheld an injunction that had been in place since March 2007 that precludes further planting of GE alfalfa until the EIS is finalized. 

The Supreme Court agreed in January, to hear the case after Monsanto and others again challenged the injunction in October 2009 (but not the EIS requirement).

There’s a lot at stake here. The Court could narrow the focus of the case strictly to the GE alfalfa. Or it could broaden it to consider other GE crops. THAT could open up a large can of worms.

Use of Monsanto's genetically-modified alfalfa could make organic milk hard to find

Use of Monsanto's genetically-modified alfalfa could make organic milk hard to find

Consider this. Here’s where we stand with already-planted GE crops in the US, according to Monsanto’s petition to the Supreme Court:

  • 91% of all soybeans)
  • more than 90% of sugar beets
  • 88% of cotton 
  • 85% of all US corn

Only 1% of US alfalfa is genetically modified, but overall it’s the fourth largest crop (behind corn, wheat, and soybeans).

Then there’s a growing body of science that’s finding health and environmental problems linked with GE foods and
some of the products used with them, such as pesticides.

Looking at the larger picture, if the Court were to agree to the larger prespective of the case, AND if they ruled against Monsanto, this would create a passle of issues and future lawsuits comparable perhaps only to the long-tangled web of tobacco industry lawsuits.

It will be interesting to see how the Court takes on this thorny issue and what they direction they finally rule.


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