Recent Legal Action Involves Genetically Modified Crops

May 22, 2013 | Roger McEowen


In recent years, biotech crops have faced significant legal challenges.  One of those challenges made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.  That’s the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has ever decided a case involving genetically modified crops.  The case involves review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that resulted in a temporary ban on genetically modified alfalfa – Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready Alfalfa.  The key issues were whether the plaintiffs, producers of organic alfalfa seeds, are exempt from being required to show a likelihood of irreparable harm to get an injunction under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), whether the trial court can enter an injunction to remedy a NEPA violation without holding an evidentiary hearing to resolve factual issues that are relevant to the scope of the injunction being sought, and whether the appellate court  was correct to affirm the nationwide injunction based solely on a remote possibility of irreparable harm.

On June 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed in a near-unanimous decision. The Court held that the trial court judge (the brother of Supreme Court Justice Breyer) abused his discretion in entering the injunction, and that none of the four criteria for entering a permanent injunction had been satisfied.  In addition, the Court determined that a less drastic remedy than a nationwide injunction against the planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa was available.

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