(CN) – The Supreme Court on Monday lifted a ban on planting genetically engineered alfalfa seeds, reversing a federal appeals court ruling that barred Monsanto Co. from selling the seeds that resist the herbicide Roundup.
Known as Roundup Ready Alfalfa, the crop was genetically engineered to be tolerant of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Before it was banned in 2004, an estimated 220,000 acres of the engineered alfalfa was planted by more than 3,000 farmers in 48 states.
“We agree that the district court’s injunction against planting went too far,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the 7-1 majority. “In sum, the District Court abused its discretion.”
Justice Stephen Breyer did not participate in the case because his brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, issued the ruling banning the crop from being planted.
Charles Bryer had barred the nation’s farmers from planting the engineered alfalfa until the Agriculture Department could study the crop’s potential environmental impact.
Only retiring Justice John Paul Stevens dissented. “It was reasonable for the court to conclude that planting could not go forward until more complete study … showed that the known problem of gene flow could, in reality, be prevented,” he wrote.