The Center for Food Safety, California Farmers Union and several other environmental groups have sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over its decision to fully deregulate genetically modified (GM) alfalfa that is resistant to the herbicide, Roundup®. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. 11-1310 (N.D. Cal. filed 3/18/11). Plaintiffs allege that the USDA’s deregulation decision violates NEPA, the Plant Protection Act and Administrative Procedure Act.

The complaint asks the court to vacate the decision and order USDA to reconsider it using “proper environmental review.” Plaintiffs argue that deregulation will cause gene contamination in “conventional, organic, and feral alfalfa,” as well as hurt the organic dairy industry, which requires organic alfalfa feed for livestock to maintain USDA certification. They also assert that domestic alfalfa exporters could lose markets in other countries due to fears about contamination.

In a 2007 decision, the same court halted deregulation, ruling that USDA had to perform a more extensive environmental review. Geertson Seed Farms v. Johanns, No. 06-1075 (N.D. Cal. 2/13/07). In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the district court-ordered ban was too broad, finding that the court abused its discretion in barring USDA from even partially deregulating the crops pending environmental review. Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475 (U.S. 6/21/10). USDA completed a full environmental impact statement in December 2010.