GENET archive


BUSINESS: Monsanto asks U.S. court to allow sale of GMO alfalfa

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Monsanto asks court to allow sale of GMO alfalfa
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   24.03.2007

Monsanto asks court to allow sale of GMO alfalfa

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. has asked a San Francisco federal
court to allow it to continue selling its genetically modified Roundup
Ready Alfalfa while the USDA conducts a court-ordered environmental
impact study.

Monsanto, its seed distributors and growers stand to lose up to $250
million if the alfalfa, which was designed to survive the company's
Roundup herbicide, is taken off the market for the two years it takes to
complete the study, the company said in court papers filed late Friday.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer halted the sale
of the modified alfalfa at the request of farmers, environmentalists and
consumer advocates who say that it could harm the U.S. economy and the

The judge voided the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2005 approval of
Roundup Ready Alfalfa, finding the agency had not conducted a full
environmental impact statement. Breyer banned seed sales and gave
farmers until March 30 to plant seeds they had already purchased.

Judge Breyer has set a hearing for April 27 to consider the plaintiffs'
request for a permanent injunction.

Alfalfa, a fodder crop pollinated by bees and wind, is among the most
widely grown crops in the United States, along with corn, soybeans and wheat.

In its brief, Monsanto presented testimony from scientists who said
there was an "extremely low" risk that Roundup Ready Alfalfa would
pollinate conventional crops if "appropriate stewardship measures" were taken.

Those measures include making sure that Roundup Ready crops are grown as
much as 3 miles away from conventional crops to prevent cross-pollination.

Monsanto argued that a continued ban on Roundup Ready seed would force
farmers "to plant lower-yield alfalfa breeds that pose more complicated
and costly weed control problems, and require the use of more toxic or
environmentally problematic herbicides."

The Center for Food Safety, which is among the groups that sought the
injunction, said Breyer's order marks the first time a federal court has
overturned a USDA approval of a biotech seed and halted planting.

The Center and other plaintiffs have argued that the biotech alfalfa
could create super weeds resistant to herbicides, cause farmers to lose
export business and contaminate natural and organic alfalfa.

They also alleged that Monsanto could try to force farmers whose crops
were contaminated with Roundup Ready Alfalfa to pay for the company's
patented gene technology whether they wanted it or not.

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Planting deadline looms for Roundup Ready alfalfa
SOURCE: Agriculture Online, USA
DATE:   23.02.2007

Planting deadline looms for Roundup Ready alfalfa

Time is running out on forage producers to plant alfalfa seed
genetically modified to withstand glyphosate herbicide. Whether the
clock is restarted on future Roundup Ready alfalfa use remains to be
seen, says a Purdue University-based seed expert.

According to a Purdue report, a recent court decision halting the sale
and planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa means producers have until March
30 to legally plant the biotech varieties, says Larry Nees, state seed
administrator for the Office of the Indiana State Chemist. The office is
the state agency charged with administering agricultural regulations for
seeds, fertilizer, animal feeds and pesticides.

Because Roundup Ready alfalfa was introduced just two years ago and
costs more than twice as much than conventional alfalfa seed, there
likely aren't many Indiana producers who've purchased the varieties,
Nees says.

Roundup Ready alfalfa seed costs approximately $6-$7 per pound, compared
to about $2-$4 a pound for conventional varieties, Nees says. Technology
fees add to the price of Roundup Ready varieties, he said.

"Roundup Ready alfalfa seed would be utilized by a serious grower of
alfalfa for forage purposes," Nees says. "It's quite expensive, so I
don't think you'll see widespread use of the varieties in Indiana. But I
think it's significant to know that there probably are farmers
throughout the state who purchased those varieties and have them in
their possession and were intending to use them at some point this year."

On March 12 a federal judge in San Francisco issued a court decision
barring the sale and use of Roundup Ready alfalfa after March 30. U.S.
District Court Judge Charles Breyer granted the injunction at the
request of a group of organic forage growers and environmental and
consumer activists. The group claimed the alfalfa varieties could be
harmful to the environment and the economy.

Breyer's ruling marked the first time a U.S. Department of Agriculture
approval for a genetically modified seed product was overturned by a
federal court.

An April 27 hearing will determine whether the injunction becomes permanent.

Farmers who've already planted Roundup Ready alfalfa are not affected by
the court decision, Nees says.

"The injunction that's been filed does not impact any continued used,
harvest or sale of Roundup Ready forage," he says. "It's important to
note that the decision of this case was not focused on the safety of
Roundup Ready alfalfa and Roundup Ready alfalfa seed.

"The district court that issued the injunction, and other regulatory
agencies like the USDA, all agree that it poses no harm to humans and/or
livestock. It's just an issue of technicality as to how this was
originally approved by the USDA and whether all the steps were taken to
make sure that there was no impact on the organic growers and the
conventional alfalfa growers in certain areas of the country."

Inspectors from the Office of the Indiana State Chemist are contacting
seed dealers statewide to inform them of the court decision. Seed
dealers are being asked to notify their farmer customers about the March
30 deadline and give farmers credit for returning unused Roundup Ready
alfalfa seed, Nees says.

Any Roundup Ready alfalfa not already in the ground isn't likely to get
planted by the court deadline, says Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension
forage specialist.

"With soils as wet as they are right now, by the time they dry and
tillage is done, seeding is not going to happen by March 30," he says.
"The actual planting window for alfalfa in Indiana is late March to the
first part of May, anyway."

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                                 PART III
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TITLE:  USDA provides update on genetically engineered alfalfa
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   23.03.2007

USDA provides update on genetically engineered alfalfa

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2007--In order to comply with a March 12, 2007,
preliminary injunction order by the United States District Court for the
Northern District of California, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is informing all alfalfa
growers that Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa, is once again a regulated
article, and will remain so until the agency issues a new determination
consistent with court requirements.

The court did not overturn federal conclusions regarding the safety of
the crop for food and feed purposes, but rather concluded that APHIS had
not adequately documented potential environmental impacts. A future
decision regarding the deregulation of RR alfalfa will be issued only
after the completion of an appropriately documented environmental analysis.

After the court issued its March 12, 2007, order, seed dealers were
notified that seed can no longer be sold. Growers who had already
purchased RR alfalfa seed as of March 12, may plant that seed before
March 30, 2007. Growers who meet these deadlines may harvest, use and
sell their RR alfalfa crop, as may growers who previously planted RR
alfalfa. Any product grown from seed planted after this deadline will be
subject to the full range of APHIS' remedial authorities.

APHIS deregulated genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa lines J101 and
J163 on June 14, 2005, after a thorough review of the scientific
evidence. APHIS prepared an environmental assessment (EA) to determine
whether deregulating the alfalfa could have a significant impact on the
environment and issued a finding of no significant impact. APHIS makes a
determination of nonregulated status only when it can conclude that the
organism does not pose a plant pest risk.

RR alfalfa is engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate,
marketed under the brand name Roundup. RR products include corn, canola
and soybean and have a long history of safe use.

APHIS regulates the introduction (importation, interstate movement and
environmental release) of GE organisms. APHIS has been safely regulating
GE organisms since 1986 and has overseen the deregulation of more than
70 GE crop lines.

Notice of this action is published in the March 23 Federal Register.

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