The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the injunction banning the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa. In the two-to-one decision, the court turned down the appeal of a lower court ruling that said USDA must develop an environmental impact study to begin selling seed again.

The biotech crop was sold commercially until March 2007 when an injunction was granted halting the sale. Seed cannot be sold again until a full environmental impact study is conducted.

The Center for Food Safety and an Oregon alfalfa seed producer sued the government over the sale of the seed, claiming it contaminated organic and conventional alfalfa production. The same radical environmental group is involved in a legal battle against Roundup Ready sugar beets.

Radical environmental groups not only convinced a San Francisco judge to halt the sale of RR alfalfa, they also managed to get the same judge to place restrictions on the harvesting and sale of the herbicide-resistant hay from as much as 300,000 acres of RR alfalfa planted before the ban was ordered. Most of those restrictions remain in place, but a particularly onerous one about tagging each bale of RR alfalfa was modified to allow growers to simply identify RR alfalfa loads of hay.

The EIS ordered by the courses was expected to take 18 more months from the time the injunction was issued.

A draft EIS is expected by the end of this year or very early in 2009. Following a public comment period, the agency will draft a final EIS. A deregulation decision is expected in late 2009.