Supreme Court Rules Both Ways on GM Seed Ban

Questions of genetics, economics, legality, separation of powers, environment, and other issues were all raised in the Supreme Court case. In the end though, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, ruled on essentially one point: District Court Judge Breyer overstepped his authority.

Supreme Court: District Court Overstepped

"We agree that the district court's injunction against planting went too far," wrote Justice Alito. "In sum, the District Court abused its discretion."

Justice John Paul Stevens, the lone dissenter, argued that the lower court was in a better position to rule on the case, and that the justices should have deferred to its judgment.

The decision gives a win to Monsanto (and its allies, which included the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Home Builders, which filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Monsanto), but how the decision was made gives environmentalists new weapons, according to the Center for Food Safety.

In Monday's ruling, the Court upheld the ban of GM alfalfa until the USDA completed its review. Also, for the first time, the ruling recognizes economic impacts like reduced yield count as an environmental harm. Furthermore, the court recognized that gene flow (or crossing genetically modified crops with wild, unmodified crops) is harmful and illegal under existing environmental protections.

Monsanto Involved In Lawsuit About Modified Beets

If the genes that help Monstanto's plant survive Roundup end up in weeds (something that Monstano claims is unlikely) then all farmers will face lower yields and lower profits from these so-called "superweeds."

Some of these legal remedies could be used against Monsanto as early as next month. Monsanto is currently involved in another lawsuit about its modified, Roundup-resistant sugar beets: last September a federal judge ruled that the USDA failed to the properly assess the beets' environmental impact. A court date is that case is scheduled for July.

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