• Supreme Court Overturns Genetically-Modified Crop Injunction
  • July 2, 2010 | Author: Jonathan Eric Wells
  • Law Firm: Alston & Bird LLP - Atlanta Office
  • Yesterday, in Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms (No. 09-475), the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 7-1 decision that a San Francisco district court abused its discretion by enjoining the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from deregulating a genetically modified plant pending the completion of an environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

    The case involves Monsanto’s request for the USDA to deregulate Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA), and a district court’s decision to permanently enjoin virtually all planting of RRA until the agency prepared an environmental impact statement. In reaching its decision, the Court first reaffirmed that -- even in NEPA cases -- a court must apply the traditional four-factor test before entering a permanent injunction. Applying the four-factor test, the Court held that none of the factors supported the district court’s order. Further, the Court held that it was error for the district court to impose a broad injunction prohibiting virtually all planting of RRA until the agency assessed the effects of a complete deregulation of RRA because less drastic remedies were available and because the injunction effectively preempts the agency from determining whether a partial, limited deregulation could occur that would not pose any appreciable risk of environmental harm.

    Democrats in Congress such as Patrick Leahy of Vermont have already condemned the decision as “the latest in a line of Supreme Court decisions reducing the effectiveness” of environmental protections. In contrast, Monsanto has already announced that it has RRA ready to deliver to farmers and awaits USDA guidance on release of RRA seed.