Monsanto legal intervention blocked
EXTRACT: If allowed to intervene, Monsanto and other parties would have poured their resources into the case and "amplified the amount of litigation," thereby complicating and prolonging the legal process...
Field of participants narrowed in GMO suit
Judge partially excludes Monsanto from sugar beet case
Capital Press, 29 AUGUST 2008
A federal judge has partially barred the Monsanto Co. from participating in a lawsuit over glyphosate-resistant "Roundup Ready" sugar beet seeds.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled Aug. 15 that Monsanto, several sugar beet companies and other interested parties could not intervene in the initial "merits" phase of the lawsuit, which will examine whether the USDA breached federal law by deregulating Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets.
The suit was filed in January by environmental and organic seed groups, which alleged that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Plant Protection Act by insufficiently reviewing the seed's potential environmental and economic effects.
The plaintiffs fear that pollen from the genetically modified sugar beets will contaminate conventional and organic seed crops grown in Oregon's Willamette Valley, such as table beets and chard. The groups also believe the prevalence of Roundup Ready crops will increase the number of herbicide-resistant weeds.
White ruled that Monsanto and the other parties could not intervene in the merits portion of the case, since they were not responsible for the actual deregulation of the seed.
"Only the federal defendants can be held liable under NEPA and the PPA," he said in the ruling.
However, White ruled that Monsanto and the other parties could intervene in the case if USDA APHIS is found to have violated federal law. During that "remedies" phase, the judge would determine how to rectify the violation, which would directly affect Monsanto and the other parties.
Kevin Golden, attorney for the Center for Food Safety, one of the plaintiffs, said that White's decision levels the playing field in the lawsuit.
If allowed to intervene, Monsanto and other parties would have poured their resources into the case and "amplified the amount of litigation," thereby complicating and prolonging the legal process, he said.
"Without the intervenors, it keeps the issues simple and clear," said Golden. "It makes it a fair case."
Brad Mitchell, spokesman for Monsanto, said the ruling will prevent the company from presenting its own evidence and calling in expert witnesses.
However, the company will still be able to file an "amicus brief" by Sept. 5 that summarizes its arguments, he said.
Though Monsanto's level of involvement in the case won't be as deep as it hoped, the company doesn't see the ruling as a major setback, Mitchell said. "The USDA should be able to handle themselves."