Despite a decision by the USDA earlier this year to deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa, the drama surrounding this issue is far from over. Two new lawsuits have recently been filed.
One of the lawsuits was filed by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice against the USDA. These parties are arguing that the USDA’s recent unrestricted approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa is unlawful. The Center for Food Safety was behind the lawsuit that in 2007 stopped the sales of Roundup Ready alfalfa.
One of the many issues at the root of this lawsuit is the fear from organic dairies that they will lose their source of organic feed. According to a press release from the Cornucopia Institute, bees that cross-pollinate between fields could cross-contaminate alfalfa varieties.
The second lawsuit has recently been filed by the Public Patent Foundation against Monsanto on behalf of a group of farmers, seed businesses and organic agriculture organizations. The plaintiffs say they were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their alfalfa become contaminated by Roundup Ready seed.
It’s still unknown if either lawsuit will have any impact going forward.
“The lawsuit from the Center for Food Safety addresses many of the same issues that were addressed in the previous lawsuit,” notes Dan Putnam, Cooperative Extension Forage Specialist at the University of California-Davis. “It remains to be seen if it will gain traction.”
Monsanto is taking issue with the allegations by the Public Patent Foundation. Monsanto says it has not ever sued and has publicly committed to not sue farmers over the inadvertent presence of biotechnology traits in their fields. Monsanto also called the plaintiff’s approach a publicity stunt designed to confuse the facts about American agriculture.
Despite the continued drama, planting of Roundup Ready is moving forward. Monsanto says that seed sales have been especially strong in California, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado and the Northeast U.S.
Although it is now legal to plant Roundup Ready alfalfa nationwide, in the Imperial Valley of California, where 20 percent of the state’s alfalfa is grown, farmers are restricting its use. “These farmers asked for planting restrictions on Roundup Ready alfalfa because of the sensitivity of export markets for seed and hay,” explains Putnam. “This was the case in 2005 and currently the restriction remains in place.”
“As the growing season progresses, we will be able to gauge how much Roundup Ready is really being planted in comparison to conventional alfalfa varieties,” notes Putnam.