Supreme Court Rules In Monsanto vs. Geerston Seed Farms

Remember how the Supreme Court heard it’s first case involving genetically-engineered crops in April? Today they announced their decision. It is a mixed victory for us Real Foodies.

The high court left the ban on the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa in place, so for all practical purposes the “good guys” are celebrating today. The court did say, however, that the lower-court judge had overstepped his authority.

About the victory, the Center for Food Safety (which helped fund the plaintiff’s case and initially sue the USDA), released this statement:

The Center for Food Safety today celebrated the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Monsanto v. Geerston Farms, the first genetically modified crop case ever brought before the Supreme Court. Although the High Court decision reverses parts of the lower courts’ rulings, the judgment holds that a vacatur bars the planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs. It is a victory for the Center for Food Safety and the Farmers and Consumers it represents.

“The Justices’ decision today means that the selling and planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal. The ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate EIS is prepared by USDA and they officially deregulate the crop. This is a year or more away according to the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further litigation if the agency’s analysis is not adequate,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “In sum, it’s a significant victory in our ongoing fight to protect farmer and consumer choice, the environment and the organic industry.”

Plaintiff Phil Geerston said:

“We brought this case to court because I and other conventional farmers will no doubt suffer irreversible economic harm if the planting of GE alfalfa is allowed. It was simply a question of our survival, and though we did not win on all points of the law, we are grateful that the practical result of today’s ruling is that Monsanto cannot take away our rights and Roundup Ready alfalfa cannot threaten our livelihoods.”

The court’s decision was 7 to 1, with the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito.

In the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court held: “In sum…the vacatur of APHIS’s deregulation decision means that virtually no RRA (Roundup Ready Alfalfa) can be grown or sold until such time as a new deregulation decision is in place, and we also know that any party aggrieved by a hypothetical future deregulation decision will have ample opportunity to challenge it, and to seek appropriate preliminary relief, if and when such a decision is made.” (Opinion at p. 22).

The Court also held that:

~ Any further attempt to commercialize RRA even in part may require an EIS subject to legal challenge.
~ The Court further recognized that the threat of transgenic contamination is harmful and onerous to organic and conventional farmers and that the injury allows them to challenge future biotech crop commercializations in court.

USDA indicated at the Supreme Court argument that full deregulation is about a year away and that they will not pursue a partial deregulation in the interim. Any new attempt at deregulation in full or part will be subject to legal challenge.

“The bottom line is that the Supreme Court set aside the injunction because the vacating of the commercialization decision already gave us all the relief we needed, by forbidding RRA planting until a new decision is made by the agency. And at such time, farmers and consumers still have the right to challenge the adequacy of that process.” said George Kimbrell, senior staff attorney for CFS. “The Court’s decision affirmed that the threat of genetic contamination of natural plants posed by biotech crops is an issue of significant environmental concern now and in the future.”

So, score one for those of us fighting GMO foods! And congratulations and many thanks to Phil Geerston and the Center for Food Safety who took on some seriously BIG Goliaths — including the USDA, Monsanto, the American Farm Bureau, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


  1. says

    Wow am I happy you posted this – I had no idea this was in court. If indeed it creates some precedent to allow aggrieved farmers some glimmer of hope in court moving forward, I’m thrilled.

    • LeahM says

      Just a wild guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is former Monsanto lawyer Clarence Thomas, who refused to recuse himself from this case in spite of an obvious conflict of interest.

      • LeahM says

        Whoops, I was wrong…it was Justice Stevens, who disagreed with the finding that the District Court had overstepped its authority. Guess he felt that since the decision was a slam-dunk, he could afford to dissent on the matter of jurisdiction. The Court is losing a true people’s judge when he retires.

  2. says

    Thank goodness for the decision. I’ve heard of the tragedies that Monsanto’s RR varieties have caused globally (just take a look at the boom in rural poverty and rural displacement after the introduction of soy RR in Argentina!), and I’m glad the Supreme Court took such a strong stand on RR alfalfa. Genetically modified crops may boost productivity, but they can also ruin the nutrient quality of a crop and undermine farm labor.
    .-= Edmund´s last blog post …Salentein Numina 2005 =-.

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