|June 22, 2010|
Monsanto: Supreme Court lifts ban on genetically modified seeds
|In a case involving agricultural giant Monsanto, the U.S. Supreme Court has lifted a ban on genetically modified alfalfa seeds.
The move will likely affect the regulation of other biotech crops, including genetically modified sugar beets, and could make it easier for GM crops to stay on the market, since it will be no longer be possible to ban an approved crop without a full hearing.
Monsanto engineered the alfalfa seeds to be resistant to the weed killing herbicide Roundup Ready, but faces resistance from farmers, who have concerns about cross-contamination with other crops, among other environmental risks.
Some Roundup Ready seeds had already been planted before the ban was enacted. Today, GM alfalfa seeds make up 1 percent of the market.
Some 95 percent of beets grown in the U.S. carry the Monsanto bacterial gene that resists the herbicide glyphosate, present in Roundup Ready.
Though the verdict of the Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farm case doesn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who had been following it, it is the first time the Supreme Court made a decision about genetically modified foods.
Now familiar with the war over GM food? Here's a quick primer:
The decision means that farmers, growers and seed producers can have a hearing before an injunction is put in place. In other words: once a crop goes on sale, it can't be banned without a hearing.
The environmental impact statement is still pending. USDA spokesman Caleb Weaver was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying that, in so many words, the decision on GM seeds is hardly final:
What kind of environmental risk, you ask? Andrew Pollack explains in The New York Times:
Writing in The Atlantic, New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle shows how a lack of regulation could ripple through the food chain:
Nestle also questioned the ability for regulators to prevent pollen from GM crops to contaminate organic crops nearby.
There are also questions about sustainability. For example, 92 percent of soybeans and 85 percent of corn uses Monsanto technology, leaving them helpless when Mother Nature strikes back.
The LA Times, again:
By Boonsri Dickinson