GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

APPROVALS / PLANTS: U.S. judge halts sale of biotech alfalfa seeds



                                  PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Judge halts sale of biotech alfalfa seeds
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, USA
AUTHOR: Marc Lifsher
URL:    http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-fi-
seeds13mar13,1,2275363.story?coll=la-headlines-technology
DATE:   13.03.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Judge halts sale of biotech alfalfa seeds

Activists applaud the preliminary ruling as first ban on genetically
manipulated crops.

A federal judge Monday overturned the Bush administration's 2005
approval of genetically engineered alfalfa seeds and stopped their sale
for now, in what activists hailed as the first ban on selling such crops.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in San Francisco found that the
U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to adequately conduct an
environmental impact study before approving them for sale.

Monday's ruling grew out of the judge's decision last month that the
USDA failed to take seriously concerns that genetically altered seeds
could migrate to other alfalfa crops. Nothing in the National
Environmental Protection Act, "the relevant regulations, or the case law
support such a cavalier response," he said.

The seeds, developed by agribusiness giant Monsanto Co., are now in
their second season of use. Such genetically engineered seeds are grown
in 200,000 of the nation's 23 million acres of alfalfa, widely grown for
hay and animal grazing.

The seeds were re-engineered so that alfalfa plants can resist the ill
effects of another Monsanto product, a widely used herbicide known by
the trade name of Roundup. As a result, some farmers say, they can get
greater crop yield and better quality alfalfa.

California is the nation's No. 1 alfalfa producer with about 1 million
acres under cultivation. The state's 2004 harvest was worth $853 million.

Breyer's preliminary injunction came in a lawsuit brought by the San
Francisco-based Center for Food Safety and other environmental groups.

It is the first ban on the genetic manipulation of traits of basic
crops, such as corn, canola, soybeans and cotton, people familiar with
the case confirmed.

Boosters of organic foods called the judge's order a landmark in
protecting the public interest. A representative of the Agriculture
Department in Washington could not be reached.

But some farmers, agricultural scientists and officials at Monsanto said
the ruling, if upheld, would pose a major setback for the burgeoning
U.S. biotech industry.

"It's a very significant development, the next step in the pushback by
the federal court system for the grossly inadequate environmental review
of genetically engineered crops," said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist
of the Organic Center, a nonprofit Rhode Island-based group that does
research into the benefits of organic food.

The ban will remain in effect until the judge considers lifting it or
making it permanent. Monsanto is banking on increasing the acreage by
convincing Breyer at an April hearing that farmers can use so-called
Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds without contaminating neighboring fields.

Researchers have developed "stewardship" practices that provide "a
robust and responsible approach to managing the environmental questions
raised by the plaintiffs in this case," said Jerry Steiner, Monsanto's
executive vice president.

"I hope this is just a bump in the road," added Phillip Bowles, who
grows Roundup Ready alfalfa on about one-tenth of his 6,000-acre alfalfa
farm in Los Banos in Merced County. Without the new seeds, farmers will
be forced to use herbicides that are far stronger than Roundup if they
want to control weeds, Bowles said.

Allen Van Deynze, a biotechnology scientist at UC Davis who's done
extensive research on genetically modified alfalfa, said that genetic
plants could be managed effectively so that less than 1% of the seeds
would contaminate other crops. "We've managed gene flow in the seed
industry for 100 years now," he said.

Although Van Deynze confirmed that he received some of the financial
support for his research from the seed industry, he stressed that all
his papers had been thoroughly reviewed by other scientists in the field.

Van Deynze said that he and his colleagues at UC Davis also had
developed management plans for using Roundup Ready seeds that have been
accepted by alfalfa growers, who use conventional and organic methods.

But Jim Rickert, who raises 3,000 acres of organic and conventional
alfalfa in Siskiyou and Shasta counties in Northern California, was
skeptical. "I've heard this particular statement made before," he said.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                  PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Judge stops sale of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa
SOURCE: The New York Times, USA
AUTHOR: Andrew Pollack
URL:    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/business/13seed.html?
_r=1&ref=environment&oref=slogin
DATE:   13.03.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Judge Stops Sale of Monsanto's Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
A federal judge revoked the government's approval of Monsanto's
genetically engineered alfalfa yesterday, ordering a halt to seed sales
and banning any planting of the crop after March 30.

The decision, by Judge Charles R. Breyer of Federal District Court in
San Francisco, came after a ruling he made a month ago that the
Agriculture Department had violated the law by failing to prepare an
environmental impact statement before approving the crop in June 2005.

Yesterday's order, the first time that approval of a genetically
engineered crop had been revoked by a court, was a preliminary
injunction. The judge said he would consider whether to make the
injunction permanent at a hearing in late April.

The lawsuit had been filed by some alfalfa seed companies and
environmental and farm advocacy groups against the department.

Monsanto intervened in the case after Judge Breyer's ruling last month
in an effort to keep the crop on the market. It was joined by several
alfalfa growers and by Forage Genetics International, an alfalfa breeder
that worked with Monsanto and now handles the sale of the seeds to farmers.

The alfalfa is resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, allowing
farmers to kill weeds without hurting the crop.

Monsanto said it was disappointed. "We are hopeful that a reasoned
approach in this matter will address questions about the regulatory
approval process for Roundup Ready alfalfa while maintaining farmer
access to this beneficial technology," Jerry Steiner, an executive vice
president, said in a statement.

In an effort to soften the impact of his ruling on farmers, Judge Breyer
said seed already purchased could be planted until March 30.

But in its news release, Monsanto said the deadline was too soon. It
quoted Dale Scheps, a dairy farmer in Almena, Wis., saying he had
already purchased enough seed for 35 acres but did not plant alfalfa
until mid-May.

About 200,000 acres of the Roundup Ready crop were planted last year,
but Forage Genetics had expected the acreage to increase to 550,000 this
year, according to Monsanto. About 22 million acres of alfalfa are grown
in the United States, most of which is used for feeding livestock.
Compared with its genetically modified soybean and corn, alfalfa is not
yet a big product for Monsanto.

The Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group that organized the
lawsuit, hailed the latest ruling. The Agriculture Department did not
have immediate comment.

In his earlier decision, Judge Breyer had said the government had failed
to assess adequately whether the Roundup Ready trait could be
transferred to organic or conventional alfalfa, hurting sales of organic
farmers or alfalfa exports to countries like Japan that did not want the
genetically engineered variety.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                  PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  U.S. judge halts sales of Monsanto GMO alfalfa
SOURCE: Reuters
AUTHOR: Carey Gillam
URL:    http://www.reuters.com/article/governmentFilingsNews/
idUSN1239069020070312
DATE:   12.03.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


U.S. judge halts sales of Monsanto GMO alfalfa

KANSAS City, Mo., March 12 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday issued
a preliminary injunction banning the sale of Monsanto Co.'s genetically
modified alfalfa and any planting of the seed after March 30.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of
California granted the injunction at the request of a group of farmers,
environmentalists and consumer activists who have alleged the biotech
alfalfa could be destructive to both the economy and the environment.

The decision marked the first time a federal court has overturned a USDA
approval of a biotech seed and halted planting, according to The Center
for Food Safety, among the groups seeking the injunction.

The judge's order vacates the USDA's 2005 approval of Monsanto's
alfalfa, which has been genetically modified to withstand spraying of
the company's Roundup herbicide. The order called for an immediate halt
to sales of the specialty seed.

The court ruling specifically does not prohibit growers from
"harvesting, using, or selling" any Roundup Ready alfalfa that has
already been planted. But the judge said seed sales are now banned and
farmers who already have seed are only allowed until March 30 to plant.

The injunction follows Judge Breyer's decision last month that found
that USDA was "cavalier" in its approval of Monsanto's alfalfa and that
it violated national environmental laws by approving the genetically
altered alfalfa without a full environmental impact statement.

"We're taking the judge's orders seriously and we will comply with the
requirement that we notify the Roundup Ready alfalfa sellers and growers
that no Roundup Ready alfalfa seed can be planted after March 30th,"
said Rachel Iadicicco, a spokeswoman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service.

'PLEASED' WITH THE HALT TO SALES

Monsanto defended the product.

"The extensive regulatory dossier for Roundup Ready alfalfa, combined
with farmer stewardship agreements, provides a robust and responsible
approach to managing the environmental questions raised by the
plaintiffs in this case," said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president
for Monsanto, in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed by The Center for Food Safety, representing itself
and several other groups, including the National Family Farm Coalition,
Sierra Club, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms, among others.

The plaintiffs said the biotech alfalfa could create super weeds
resistant to herbicide, cause farmers to lose export business, and
contaminate natural and organic alfalfa.

They also alleged that contamination of conventionally grown alfalfa
could force farmers to pay for Monsanto's patented gene technology
whether they wanted it or not.

"We are pleased that the judge called for halt to sales of this
potentially damaging crop," said Will Rostov, an attorney for the Center
for Food Safety, in a statement. "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 give these harmful effects of the crop full
consideration."

Judge Breyer has set a hearing for April 27 on the groups' request for a
permanent injunction.

Alfalfa, a perennial fodder crop cross-pollinated by bees and wind, is
among the most widely grown crops in the United States, along with corn,
soybeans, and wheat. (Additional reporting by Chris Doering in Washington)


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                  PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Federal Judge orders first-ever moratorium on sale of genetically
        altered seed
SOURCE: The Center for Food Safety, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release
URL:    http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/Alfalfa_PrelimInjPR3_12_07.cfm
DATE:   12.03.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Federal Judge orders first-ever moratorium on sale of genetically altered seed
USDA approval of genetically engineered alfalfa is vacated, seed sales halted

San Francisco, CA, March 12, 2007 - A Federal judge ruled today that the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) 2005 approval of genetically
engineered (GE) alfalfa is vacated and ordered an immediate halt to
sales of the GE seed. The ruling follows a hearing last week in the case
brought by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) against the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA) for approving GE alfalfa without conducting the
required Environmental Impact Statement.

"We are pleased that the judge called for halt to sales of this
potentially damaging crop," 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 give
these harmful effects of the crop full consideration."

The preliminary injunction ordered by Judge Charles Breyer in the
Federal Northern District of California today follows his ruling last
month finding that USDA violated national environmental laws by
approving GE alfafa without a full Environmental Impact Statement.
Monsanto and Forage Genetics, the developers of the GE alfalfa seed,
argued against the injunction. But while Monsanto and its allies claimed
that delaying the sale or planting of their GE seed would harm farmers,
the judge found otherwise. "Disappointment in the delay to their switch
to Roundup Ready alfalfa is not an interest which outweighs the
potential environmental harm..." posed by the GE crop, he wrote.

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. The ruling noted that "...for those farmers who choose
to grow non-genetically engineered alfalfa, the possibility that their
crops will be infected with the engineered gene is tantamount to the
elimination of all alfalfa; they cannot grow their chosen crop."
Commenting on the agency's refusal to assess this risk and others, the
judge noted that "Nothing in NEPA, the relevant regulations, or the
caselaw support such a cavalier response."

Judge Breyer will hold a hearing and is expected to decide whether to
impose a permanent injunction in late April.

The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the following co-
plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils,
National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides,
Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and
Geertson Seed Farms.

View the Preliminary Injunction
http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/136%20Preliminary%20Injunction%
20Order.pdf


Contact:
Will Rostov, Center for Food Safety, +1-415-826-2770
(415) +1-307-2154 (cell);
John Bianchi, Goodman Media, +1-212-576-2700


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                  PART V
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Growers can continue to grow and use Roundup Ready alfalfa, but
        Monsanto Company is disappointed with preliminary injunction
        affecting purchase and planting
SOURCE: Monsanto, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release
URL:    http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=469
DATE:   12.03.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Growers Can Continue to Grow and Use Roundup Ready Alfalfa, but Monsanto
Company Is Disappointed With Preliminary Injunction Affecting Purchase
and Planting;
Will Continue to Support Growers' Right to Choose Roundup Ready Alfalfa
for Their Forage Operations

ST. LOUIS, March 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Monsanto Company said
today it is disappointed that a preliminary injunction will affect the
plans of many farmers who want to use Roundup Ready alfalfa in their
forage operations. The preliminary injunction was issued in a lawsuit
currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District
of California; the lawsuit was brought by the Center for Food Safety and
others against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as Geertson
Seed Farms Inc. et al. v. Mike Johanns, et al. In this case, the court
had previously ruled that USDA had failed to follow procedural
requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act in granting non-
regulated status to Roundup Ready alfalfa under the Plant Protection
Act, and would have to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

"We are hopeful that a reasoned approach in this matter will address
questions about the regulatory approval process for Roundup Ready
alfalfa while maintaining farmer access to this beneficial technology,"
said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president for Monsanto. "The
extensive regulatory dossier for Roundup Ready alfalfa, combined with
farmer stewardship agreements, provides a robust and responsible
approach to managing the environmental questions raised by the
plaintiffs in this case."

The March 12 preliminary injunction order allows continued harvest, use
and sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa, but placed limits on the purchase and
planting of seed until further hearings are held. Growers who intend to
plant Roundup Ready alfalfa and have already purchased the seed as of
March 12 may do so if said seed is planted by March 30, 2007. The order
also said growers intending to plant alfalfa after March 30, 2007, must
plant non-genetically engineered alfalfa and that sales of Roundup Ready
alfalfa seed are prohibited after March 12 pending the court's decision
on permanent injunctive relief. The court has scheduled oral arguments
on the nature of any permanent injunctive relief in this case for April
27, 2007.

In some parts of the country, the March 30 planting deadline does not
leave enough time to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa that has been
purchased. "We don't plant alfalfa until the middle of May," said Dale
Scheps, who operates a 145-cow dairy farm in Almena, Wisc. Scheps
planted 35 acres of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2006 and had already
purchased enough seed to plant another 35 acres in 2007.

"It's a major setback to have this technology taken away from us,"
Scheps said. "It will needlessly drive up our feed costs because we will
have to replace superior quality hay."

Monsanto, Forage Genetics International and several farmers were granted
intervenor status in this case on March 8. Plaintiffs, defendants and
intervenors can participate in oral arguments for this case on April 27.

The court has already accepted the fact that Roundup Ready alfalfa poses
no harm to humans and livestock. As part of its regulatory filing for
Roundup Ready alfalfa in April 2004, Monsanto provided USDA with an
extensive dossier that addresses a variety of environmental, stewardship
and crop management considerations. Other regulatory agencies around the
world, including Canada and Japan, have confirmed the environmental
safety of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based
solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and
food quality. For more information, please visit the company's web site
at http://www.monsanto.com/ .

SOURCE: Monsanto Company
CONTACT: Lori Fisher of Monsanto Company, +1-314-694-8535
Web site: http://www.monsanto.com/
Company News On-Call: http://www.prnewswire.com/comp/114341.html


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------


                                  PART VI
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Land O' Lakes to join fight over engineered alfalfa
SOURCE: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, USA
AUTHOR: Carissa Wyant
URL:    http://twincities.bizjournals.com/twincities/stories/2007/03/05/
daily16.html
DATE:   06.03.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Land O' Lakes to join fight over engineered alfalfa

Land O'Lakes Inc. announced Tuesday in a filing with the SEC that one of
its indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries, Forage Genetics Inc. recently
filed a motion seeking intervener status in a lawsuit involving a
genetically engineered type of alfalfa developed by FGI.

The suit was brought against the U.S. Department of Agriculture by the
Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, two individual farmers/seed
producers and others, who argued that the USDA didn't properly address
the environmental effects of Roundup Ready Alfalfa. The alfalfa,
developed by The Monsanto Co., was developed to be genetically resistant
to gyphosphate, the herbicide in Roundup.

A court last month agreed with the plaintiffs.

Monsanto and several independent alfalfa growers also filed motions to
intervene in the lawsuit; their motion is to be heard next month.

Arden Hills-based Land O' Lakes said that though the amount of potential
liability was unknown, and it does "not currently believe that it will
result in a liability material to the company's consolidated financial
condition, future results of operations or cash flows". But its Forage
Genetics subsidiary developed Roundup Ready with Monstanto and Montana
State University, and has taken in about $8 million in revenue from the
sale of Roundup Ready Alfalfa since June 2005.

In a filing, Land O'Lakes said FGI's revenues from Roundup Ready Alfalfa
comprised approximately 35 percent of FGI's total revenues, or about 2.5
percent of the Land O'Lakes' total seed revenues. The value of the
Roundup Ready Alfalfa seed to be harvested from current FGI-contracted
seed production acres in 2007 is more than $15 million, the company said.


-------------------- archived at  http://www.gene.ch/ --------------------




--
GENET-news

the news & information service of the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

contact:
Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... hartmut.meyer(*)genet-info.org
skype....... hartmut_meyer
url......... www.genet-info.org