A federal judge Monday threw out the USDA's approval of genetically engineered alfalfa and issued a temporary injunction to halt sales of the seed.
The unprecedented ruling follows a hearing last week in the case brought by the Center for Food Safety against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approving GE alfalfa without conducting the required Environmental Impact Statement.
While Monsanto and its allies claimed that delaying the sale or planting of their GE seed would harm farmers, the judge found otherwise. “Disappointment in the delay to their switch to Roundup Ready alfalfa is not an interest which outweighs the potential environmental harm…” posed by the GE crop, he wrote.
The seeds ... are now in their second season of use. Such genetically engineered seeds are grown in 200,000 of the nation's 23 million acres of alfalfa, widely grown for hay and animal grazing.
The seeds were re-engineered so that alfalfa plants can resist the ill effects of another Monsanto product, a widely used herbicide known by the trade name of Roundup. As a result, some farmers say, they can get greater crop yield and better quality alfalfa.
California is the nation's No. 1 alfalfa producer with about 1 million acres under cultivation. The state's 2004 harvest was worth $853 million.
The ban will remain in effect until the judge considers lifting it or making it permanent. Monsanto is banking on increasing the acreage by convincing federal Judge Charles R. Breyer at an April hearing that farmers can use so-called Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds without contaminating neighboring fields.