Monday, June 21, 2010

Supreme Court rules on alfalfa GMO

The U.S. Supreme Court today overturned (.pdf) some aspects of a lower court's nationwide injunction against genetically modified (GM) alfalfa.

However, it appears that GM alfalfa planting will not restart right away. A USDA decision would be required for temporary approval. More importantly, the court left in place the lower court's ruling that a formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required before the technology receives permanent approval.

I feel the result is not exactly a victory for those who oppose all GM technology, nor exactly a victory for the technology's sponsor, Monsanto. It seems to be a victory for the idea that GM technology deserves a strong federal environmental review, including careful attention to the right of conventional farmers to preserve non-GM production if they choose.  Monsanto's opponents in this case were farmers who objected to having GM seeds blow into their conventional fields, limiting their ability to market a non-GM crop.

A Monsanto press release claimed the Supreme Court decision as a win. So did a press release from the anti-GM Center for Food Safety.  The story was covered by Reuters and AP.  On related issues, I follow Grist Magazine's food channel.  Matt Jenkins at High Country News in 2007 had a nice long feature on this controversy.

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