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Gentically modified seeds have their day in court

Published time: April 28, 2010 22:07
Edited time: April 28, 2010 22:07

A small farmer is taking on the food giant Monsanto and the argument has gone all the way to the US Supreme Court. The outcome could determine the future of GM seeds in the United States.

 It’s the case of a multinational corporation vs. small American farmers, environmental activists and people who want to know more about the origins of their food. For the first time in US history, the Supreme Court will hear arguments against genetically engineered crops and the dangers they pose to the environment.

In the lawsuit, Geertson Seed Farms contends that Monsanto is in violation of Food and Drug Administration regulations.

"It produces dormant seed. This is seed that can lay in the ground for up to 20 years before it germinates and comes up. And once that feral alfalfa makes its seed and that seed is distributed around the area, it is virtually impossible to clear it out of the environment," said farmer Phil Geertson.

Monsanto is king of the genetically engineered world, a global biotechnology agrochemical giant. It is well-known for dominating the farming industry both in the US and throughout the world. Monsanto’s controversial practices have brought Phil Geertson, an alfalfa farmer from Idaho, all the way to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Geertson claims his farms have been contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically engineered Alfalfa.

The US Department of Agriculture has been investigating Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide to determine whether the company’s modified alfalfa poses any safety or health risks. Despite the lack of a ruling from the USDA or the FDA, Monsanto alfalfa seeds can be found in fields nationwide

"Just because some people were wanting to have their field free of Roundup Ready alfalfa, they could coexist even if the government approved this product for planting. This product will be out there, so farmers need to coexist," said David Snively, Monsanto general counsel.

Monsanto insists a federal court decision in 2004 that banned the planting of its alfalafa was misguided and the Supreme Court will decide the case in its favor after the USDA completes its investigation.

In the meantime, US consumers are concerned. They are calling for a full boycott of Monsanto’s alfalfa products and encouraging people to buy organic instead. The activists may be in for a rude awakening in June, however, when the decision is expected to come down. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas used to work for Monsanto and several top positions in the Food and Drug Admininstration and the Department of Agriculture are filled with former Monsanto lobbyists.

In this case, those revolving doors of influence could determine whether genetically modified seeds become a way of life.

Read also: Enterprise of nanotechnologies opens in Russia

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