(CN) – Two seed companies that sought to halt the government’s deregulation of genetically modified alfalfa crops and lost in the Supreme Court were handed a consolation prize Tuesday, when a federal judge granted their request for court costs and attorneys’ fees.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer awarded Geertson Seed Company and Trask Family Seeds more than $1.6 million to recover their litigation costs in the trial and appellate phases of the protracted case, which was originally filed in 2006. Breyer ruled for the seed companies after he found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture “ignored plaintiffs’ requests for costs and fees on fees in their briefs and therefore have not rebutted any of the evidence submitted by plaintiffs.”
Breyer ruled for the seed companies in 2007, enjoining a nationwide ban on planting Roundup-resistant alfalfa (RRA). A divided panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed Breyer’s decision.
On appeal to the Supreme Court, the justices ruled 7-1 last year that the nationwide ban against RRA “went too far” and that “the District Court abused its discretion” in banning the genetically modified crop.
Citing the seed companies’ successes in the trial and appellate phases of the case, and applying a reduction for their “‘limited success’ after appeal,” Breyer noted that the seed companies had sought an “excessive” 20 percent reduction. Their victory in a related case regarding genetically modified sugar beets supports a 10 percent reduction, he concluded.
The herbicide Roundup, a product of Monsanto, is used to control weeds in fields where crops are grown. Because it is a “non-discriminatory” herbicide and kills both desirable and undesirable plants, Monsanto has been developing crop seeds that are resistant to the effects of Roundup, allowing farmers to spray the poison on the genetically modified vegetable and fruit plants without fear of harming their crops.