Monsanto finally appeals RR alfalfa seed sales ban

Monsanto has appealed a Northern California U.S. District Court’s ruling banning the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

The appeal was filed Monday seeking to “correct the legal standards” applied as the basis for the injunction, resulting in unnecessary restrictions on growers, seed dealers, Forage Genetics Inc. (FGI), and Monsanto while the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed.

The appeal also asserts that irreparable financial harm will unnecessarily fall on the same segments of the industry as a result of the injunction, despite previous acknowledgement that Roundup Ready alfalfa poses no harm to humans and livestock.

The appeal will be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. No hearing date has been set.

The injunction to ban the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa until USDA completes an EIS on the impact of herbicide-resistant alfalfa planting seed was issued on May 3 by the federal district court, following a lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety and two alfalfa seed producers and others against the USDA.

Along with the ruling banning seed sales, the judge also ordered the exact field locations of an estimated 220,000 acres of Roundup Ready alfalfa be identified and that the production, harvesting and marketing restrictions be imposed on the forage crop deemed safe for humans and livestock. An estimated 80,000 acres of RR alfalfa is in California where the onerous set of rules issued in late summer by USDA/APHIS to seemingly comply with the judge’s orders, created almost as much uproar and consternation among growers as the initial ruling banning the sale of the seed.

Seed companies, growers and University of California specialists and others are attempting to modify the rules that include such regulations as labeling every bale of Roundup Ready alfalfa sold into a commercial hay market.

In California alone, that could mean individually tagging from 12 to 20 million 150-pound hay bales harvested each season.

The government regulations also require:

—Producers to clean all swathers, balers, pick-up wagons/harrow beds and leave the sweepings in the RR field.

—Truckers clean their equipment after transporting RR alfalfa.

—RR hay and conventional hay be segregated when stacked.

—Buyers be notified they are purchasing RR hay.

—Individually tagging all RR alfalfa bales.

Alfalfa industry leaders are attempting to modify the rules.

There have been some concerns that Monsanto and Forage Genetics would not appeal the ruling and wait until the USDA completed an EIS to put the highly sought after seed back on the market.

The announcement to appeal before the EIS is completed allayed those concerns.

The federal district court judge’s ruling to ban the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa in early spring sent shock waves through the industry, since the newly introduced technology was overwhelmingly initially accepted. Many predicted the vast majority of at least California’s alfalfa acreage, if not the nation’s, would quickly become herbicide resistant varieties.

The ruling was described as the “tail waging the dog” since of the more than 22 million acres of alfalfa grown in the U.S., only about 200,000 acres are certified organic. This would put the majority of Roundup Ready alfalfa hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from any organic alfalfa, which plaintiffs said would be “contaminated” by the transgenic seed.

Monsanto is appealing the decision that could cost conventional alfalfa growers $250 million.

Monsanto joined the lawsuit after the preliminary injunction was issued to defend grower choice to use the technology. However, the judge made his injunction permanent.

Despite previous acceptance that Roundup Ready alfalfa posed no harm to humans and livestock, the court upheld its decision that the USDA did not adequately follow procedural requirements as detailed by the National Environmental Policy Act before deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa. Under the Plant Protection Act, the court maintained that prior to deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa the USDA would have to prepare an EIS in place of the environmental assessment that was completed.

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