Alfalfa As Is

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Q: I am a grower of alfalfa seeds – have spent many years in farming.  When the manufacturer of a weed-killer started selling genetically-modified alfalfa that can tolerate the weed-killer, I realized that my own alfalfa would soon be altered by the new gene, because alfalfa is a perennial plant, whose seeds can lie dormant for 20 years.  That is plenty of time for insects that travel long distances to cross-pollinate.

I do not want my own alfalfa to end up genetically modified!  But the USDA has issued an Environmental Impact Statement and announced that the genetetically-modified alfalfa will not be regulated: it can be planted with no limitations.

A: To stop the new alfalfa, you will need an injunction.  But injunctions are issued only to the extent that the circumstances warrant.  You must convince the court that you are likely to suffer ‘irreparable harm’ without the injunction.  Apparently, you fear that cross-pollination will lead to the extinction of conventional alfalfa.  Do you also fear that the genetic contamination will decimate your livelihood?

Like it or not, in the absence of specific statutory directives, the courts have a harder time with relatively abstract environmental values than with classic legal harm, such as eradication of one’s livelihood.  Undeniably, genetic engineering has the potential to contaminate the environment and human health, and to do so in unforeseeable and uncontrollable ways.  But once the USDA has spoken, the courts are relatively boxed-in.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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