The latest lawsuit involving Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA) came as no surprise to Mark McCaslin, president of Forage Genetics, the company licensed by Monsanto to develop the first transgenic varieties.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) did a “thorough” job developing the court-ordered environmental impact statement (EIS) from which USDA made its decision to deregulate the transgenic crop, he says.

Yet the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a sustainable agriculture non-profit, as well as other environmental and organic groups and farmers, filed the lawsuit on March 18, again in a federal district court in California. They allege that USDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Plant Protection Act and the Administrative Procedures Act when it decided to deregulate the transgenic alfalfa, effective Feb. 2.

“The decision to approve it without restriction violates each of those laws,” says George Kimbrell, CFS senior attorney. “USDA has once again failed to properly oversee a biotech crop, choosing to do the bidding of a few corporations rather than fulfill its statutory duties of protecting the rights of farmers and our environment.”

The lawsuit calls the deregulation decision “arbitrary and capricious,” further asking the court “to vacate APHIS’s decision to once again deregulate RRA without taking a ‘hard look’ at the environmental consequences of its decision.”

McCaslin, on the other hand, says that USDA completed an in-depth study of RRA, which was first deregulated in 2005 and forced off the market in 2007.

“The EIS was four years in the drafting. It was, in our view, a very thorough document that did everything that the court required. Our view of it and our conversations with USDA are that it feels comfortable with the quality of the document.

“That’s a starting point. They made a deregulation decision based on that and, based on that deregulation decision, we’ve been selling the product and growers have been purchasing and planting. So, until and unless we hear differently, our intent is to continue on that track.”

To view the filed lawsuit, visit http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/1-Complaint.pdf.