May 29, 2013
On May 17, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its decision to uphold a district court ruling against a coalition of environmental organizations and organic farmers that challenged USDA’s decision to fully deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA).
The Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides and several other groups alleged that USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) failed to adequately consider the impacts of pollen drift and increased use of glyphosate in its decision to deregulate RRA under the Plant Protection Act (PPA). The groups also alleged that APHIS failed to consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) on the potential adverse effects on endangered and threatened species and failed to adequately consider partial deregulation as an alternative.
The court ruled that APHIS did not violate the PPA, the National Environmental Policy Act or the Endangered Species Act when it made its determination of non-regulated status for RRA. The appeals court found that although APHIS acknowledged that pollen drift could economically hurt conventional and organic farmers, the PPA does not give the agency the authority to regulate the adverse economic effects because they are not the result of plant pest harms. The court also found that APHIS does not have authority to regulate the use of herbicides, an authority belonging to EPA. Finally, the court found that APHIS had no legal obligation under the Endangered Species Act to consult with the FWS on endangered species issues and no obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act to consider partial regulation because it had "no discretion" to continue regulating the alfalfa crop once it determined the crop was not a plant pest.
The Center for Food Safety, the lead plaintiff in the case, announced its intention to appeal the decision and "take other legal actions against USDA and EPA."