Is Roundup Ready Supreme Court Ready?

Here in South Dakota, one regularly hears the term Roundup Ready applied to a variety of crops (though for us it is largely corn and soybeans). The Supreme Court is currently looking at a case with reference to alfalfa:

A Supreme Court case targeting Roundup Ready alfalfa could write new ground rules for legal battles involving other genetically modified crops, including Montana and Wyoming sugar beets.

At issue is whether a lower court erred when it sided with environmentalists alleging imminent danger if Monsanto Co. sold alfalfa seed genetically engineered to resist the popular weed killer Roundup.

Monsanto is arguing that its opponents should have been required to produce evidence that danger was indeed imminent.

It would seem that such a request is reasonable, but then, this debate began in earnest back in the early 90s with reference to “Frankenfoods” (an umbrella term applied to any foodstuff which was assembled from genetically-modified plants).

The damage which could be done if there is a proscription against Roundup Ready products is large. If, indeed, there is a danger from these products, then it should be substantiated so we know for certain that the production hit is necessary.

In some ways this issue reminds me of the uproar over DDT almost 40 50 years ago. The concern was that that DDT (used to wipe out mosquito populations and stop the spread of malaria) was seriously harmful to the environment. Public policy was made based on this (as we now know) inaccurate premise.

I’m by no means claiming that the science with regard to DDT (or Roundup Ready crops) is settled. We’ve seen just where statements of that sort lead. I am saying that if one claims danger, one should be able to back up that claim and show that the danger more than offsets the benefit.

7 thoughts on “Is Roundup Ready Supreme Court Ready?

  1. Monsanto is arguing that its opponents should have been required to produce evidence that danger was indeed imminent.

    that’s great.
    why isn’t it? “Monsanto should be required to produce evidence that their stuff is safe?”

    1. Well, that’s the problem. The presupposition is that Monsanto’s stuff is safe, based on the number of years which these plants have been cultivated and harvested without any known negatives. Therefore, Monsanto, before taking a substantial hit to its bottom line is asking for evidence to support changing from the status quo.

  2. In some ways this issue reminds me of the uproar over DDT almost 40 50 years ago. The concern was that that DDT (used to wipe out mosquito populations and stop the spread of malaria) was seriously harmful to the environment. Public policy was made based on this (as we now know) inaccurate premise.

    DDT isn’t harmful to the environment? Where in the world did you get that idea?

    DDT nearly wiped out the bald eagle, our national bird, plus osprey, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons. DDT is uncontrollable in the wild. Research shows it’s deadly all the way up the wild food chain — there are even papers published showing it damages plants.

    In contrast, there is no paper I can find to suggest DDT isn’t the deadly poison it is. Were it not poisonous, it wouldn’t be useful as a pesticide, you know?

    Lots more about DDT at this site; read this article, do a search for “DDT”:
    http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/straight-talk-berenbaum-on-ddt-and-malaria/

    1. Ed,

      The words used were “seriously harmful.” In other words, that the damage done more than offsets the benefit. I do not consider humans just another animal, so one human is worth more than one bald eagle–if one must be absolutely blunt about it.

      Country after country which started using DDT has seen its death rates from malaria drop precipitously: as noted in this article in the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/11/magazine/what-the-world-needs-now-is-ddt.html?pagewanted=1

      Yes, it is quite true that DDT was overused in time past, but time and further scientific exploration has shown that DDT is still remarkably beneficial for reduction of malarial infection rates.

      It is upon this foundation of data that the WHO is encouraging its use: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr50/en/index.html.

  3. The point that is missed in all this is the benefits that have come from the use of RR crops. Total pounds of herbicides applied in the environment have been dramatically reduced. In addition there has been a shift away from high residual herbicides that persist in the environment.

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