The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Monsanto Company's appeal of a federal district court judge's 2007 order that halted the planting and sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed.

Last October, Monsanto filed a petition with the Supreme Court, arguing that the 2007 injunction against the transgenic crop shouldn't have been ordered without first holding an evidentiary hearing and that it imposed unnecessary restrictions and costs on alfalfa hay and seed growers.

"USDA's regulatory approval process was short-circuited without any hearing to consider the views of impacted farmers and consideration of sound science," says Stephen Welker, Monsanto alfalfa and sugarbeet lead. "We view the Supreme Court's action to hear our appeal as important for American farmers and look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court in the coming months. We believe alfalfa growers deserve choice in the products that are available to them."

In 2007, Judge Charles Breyer ordered a halt to the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa until an environmental impact statement (EIS) could be conducted and the crop could again be examined for deregulation. The crop was deregulated in 2005 and grown by about 5,500 growers on 263,000 acres. Only about 1% of the 23 million acres of alfalfa grown in the U.S. is currently Roundup Ready.

Monsanto and Forage Genetics petitioned the appellate court twice between 2007 and 2008 "to fully consider the scientific evidence and tailor any relief ordered pending the governmental agency completion of an EIS."

The entity that filed the suit that led to the injunction, the Center For Food Safety, issued a statement reacting to the Supreme Court decision to review the case.

“This is truly a ‘David vs. Goliath’ struggle between public interest non-profits and a corporation bent on nothing less than domination of our food system,” says Andrew Kimbrell, the center’s executive director. “That Monsanto has pushed this case all the way to the Supreme Court, even though USDA’s court-ordered analysis is now complete, and the U.S. government actively opposed further litigation in this matter, underscores the great lengths that Monsanto will go to further its mission of patent control of our food system and selling more pesticides.

“Although we believe a further hearing is unnecessary, we are confident we will again prevail, as the lower courts have already three times determined,” continued Kimbrell. “We hope that this grand stage will further inform the public, policymakers and the media about the significant risks of genetically engineered crops and the vital need to protect farmers and the environment.”

The draft EIS was completed in late November 2009 after a number of delays. The public can view the document and comment on it through Feb. 16.