USDA Environmental Impact Statement on Roundup Ready Alfalfa Completed; Sales Could Resume in Early 2011


On December 16, 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Roundup Ready® alfalfa has been completed and described potential paths for future planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa in early 2011.  

“This is good news for America’s farmer,” said Steve Welker, Monsanto alfalfa lead.  “Farmers have been waiting a long time for the choice to use Roundup Ready alfalfa and realize the dependable weed control that it offers. We are hopeful of getting a green light in the next 30 to 60 days.”

In 2005, Roundup Ready alfalfa completed review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was approved by USDA and went on the market. However, a lawsuit filed in 2006 by the Center for Food Safety and an injunction in 2007 by a federal district court stopped the sale and planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds until USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) completed an EIS. 

Farmer access to this technology has been blocked by an allegation of hypothetical risk of harm, despite the conclusion of the Environmental Assessment conducted by APHIS prior to authorizing commercialization of Roundup Ready alfalfa, which found no reasonable likelihood of such harm. Now, more than five years later, the EIS supports the same conclusion: farmers should be allowed to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa.   

Over the past three years, Monsanto filed several appeals to establish the district court had exceeded its authority in ordering the injunction to halt sales of Roundup Ready alfalfa while USDA was completing additional environmental review of the product. On June 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 7-1 ruling that the expert agency, APHIS in this case, has the authority to make regulatory decisions while it is completing a broader Environmental Impact Statement. The Supreme Court described injunctions in such matters as extraordinary measures and the expert agency should be allowed to do their job, not be interfered with or subject to court actions, except under extraordinary circumstances. Neither the safety nor efficacy of Roundup Ready alfalfa was at issue in the litigation.