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Court Backs Monsanto on Biotech Seed Sales


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a federal judge had erred in prohibiting the planting of Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa seed until a federal government agency completed a detailed environmental review.

By a 7-to-1 vote, the justices reversed the lower-court ruling in their first decision involving genetically modified crops. At issue in the case was an environmental impact study on how the Roundup Ready seed could affect nearby crops.

Environmental groups and conventional seed companies, led by Geertson
Seed Farms, had sued the Agriculture Department in 2006 to force it to
rescind its approval of the Monsanto alfalfa seed until it did a full
environmental study.

Monsanto, based in St. Louis, intervened on the government’s side in the case, and had appealed to the Supreme Court.

Alfalfa is the fourth-largest crop grown in the United States, covering about 23 million acres annually, Monsanto has said.

United States District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco issued the
injunction barring the nationwide planting of the alfalfa seeds pending
the environmental review. His decision was upheld by a federal appeals


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In the Supreme Court’s main ruling, Justice Samuel Alito
said the district court had abused its discretion in barring the
Agriculture Department agency from carrying out a partial deregulation
and in prohibiting the planting of the seeds, pending the completion of
the environmental review.

Judge Alito also said in the opinion that the federal judge had erred
in entering the nationwide injunction against planting the seeds.

Shares of Monsanto were up 0.4 percent at $50.57 in morning trading.

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