Another Roundup Ready alfalfa lawsuit has been filed against USDA, alleging that its decision to deregulate the transgenic crop was “unlawful.”

But Mark McCaslin feels confident that the governmental entity did its job.

McCaslin is president of Forage Genetics, licensed by Monsanto to develop the first Roundup Ready alfalfa varieties. The crop was deregulated in 2005, then pulled from the market by a U.S. district court injunction in 2007. After nearly four years of study, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service completed a court-ordered environmental impact statement (EIS) last December, and the Supreme Court gave USDA the authority to decide Roundup Ready alfalfa’s fate. It was deregulated again – on Feb. 2 of this year.

“One of the things that they are challenging is the adequacy of the EIS,” says McCaslin of the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and others who filed the lawsuit on March 18.

“Our feeling about the EIS is that it was very thorough and that the agency did a good job evaluating potential impacts both on the environment and on sensitive markets. They did a good job of evaluating the options that the EIS presented and, we believe, made a rational and intelligent decision about deregulation,” he adds.

The lawsuit should be considered before growers buy the transgenic seed, warns George Kimbrell, an attorney with CFS, an environmental and public health organization known for its lawsuits fighting transgenic technology.

“This product continues to be under legal cloud. (Growers) should be aware … that new litigation has been filed and the legality of this crop remains in question. It was previously banned for four-plus years by court order, in a high-profile case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. If producers move forward despite having notice of ongoing and longstanding legal questions, then that’s an assumed risk, and an issue of contract that they can raise with Monsanto or whoever else they buy their GE (genetically engineered) seed from,” Kimbrell says.

The lawsuit claims that the decision to deregulate the crop violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Plant Protection Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, Kimbrell says.

Since the deregulation, Roundup Ready alfalfa seed has been bagged, shipped, sold and even planted in warmer climes, says McCaslin. “Sales have been ongoing. We are pleased with the grower feedback that we’re getting. There seems to be a fair amount of interest in the technology and planting. It is a deregulated trait, and we’re continuing to sell.

“It’s not like it’s a first launch,” McCaslin adds. “A lot of growers have tried it in the past. And a lot maybe didn’t try it the first time around and talked with neighbors and heard about it at meetings and so forth. We are pretty optimistic about (sales) this spring based on the fact that there’s a lot of information out there about Roundup Ready alfalfa. And from a grower standpoint, it’s virtually all positive.”

To view the lawsuit filing, visit www.centerforfoodsafety.org/.