A federal appeals court upheld a 2-year-old ban on Monsanto Co.'s genetically modified alfalfa in a case a biotech food opponent calls a "turning point" in the regulation of such crops, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 24 leaves Monsanto with two options. It can appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, or hope for regulatory approval after the Agriculture Department completes a comprehensive environmental review.
The 2 year-old ban came from a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco who issued an injunction that banned the planting of biotech alfalfa after March 30, 2007. By then, more than 260,000 acres of the Roundup Ready alfalfa had been planted.
There are very real concerns that conventional and organic alfalfa could be contaminated through cross-pollination, preventing crops from being sold. There are claims biotech crops have led to overuse of herbicides and given rise to "super weeds" resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
Biotech opponents say the case is much broader than just GE alfalfa because it marks the first time a thorough environmental review has been required for regulatory approval of a genetically modified crop. Such a study will help regulators and the public understand any risks associated with crops that are genetically engineered.
Monsanto is still hopeful for government approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa and believes the results of the environmental impact statement could help with future reviews of new biotech crops.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit challenging the government's approval of Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets is pending.