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Monsanto refutes CFS ‘victory’ claim

The victory claim by the radical environmental group Center for Food Safety (CFS) in the wake of this week’s U.S. Supreme Court 7-1 ruling on Roundup Ready alfalfa is a “contortion,” according to Monsanto’s David Snively.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Monsanto’s executive vice president and general counsel said the high court’s decision reaffirmed Monsanto’s position, not the proclaimed victory heralded by the Washington, D.C.-based radical activist group.

The CFS said the high court decision did not immediately clear the way to resume RR alfalfa sales.

“That is technically true,” Snively said.

However, Snively said the primary issue in the case was whether the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would be blocked from taking interim measures to allow expanded planting while the agency prepared its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The high court said the lower court erred in blocking the sale of the herbicide-resistant alfalfa in 2007.

“That is what this appeal was all about,” Snively said. “We won that issue very clearly.”

Hay & Forage Grower, a Farm Press sister agricultural publication owned by Penton Media, reports the decision may not speed up the seed’s return to the marketplace, admitted Mark McCaslin, Forage Genetics International president.

Forage Genetics developed the first Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties under a licensing agreement with Monsanto.

The high court found that U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer made a mistake when he banned the planting of RR alfalfa until the EIS was completed. Monday’s high court decision overturns a federal appeals court ruling that upheld Breyer’s orders.

In addition to the injunction, McCaslin says Breyer “vacated” APHIS’ decision to deregulate RR alfalfa.

“That wasn’t appealed,” McCaslin said. “When that was vacated it became a regulated trait again, and it still is. So this in itself does not allow the sale and planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa. It would require a subsequent action from USDA.”

APHIS could permit restricted planting of the crop this fall, but could focus on the EIS which is nearing completion.

“Hopefully we’re on the home stretch with the final EIS, which is a way to get back on the market permanently,” McCaslin said.

Monsanto has said the RR alfalfa seed would be available for planting this fall.

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