U.S. federal judge bans sales, planting of genetically modified alfalfa

A first-of-its-kind ruling in the U.S. will stop Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa in its tracks — for now. Citing the USDA’s failure to conduct an environmental impact statement before approving the crop in 2005 and its “cavalier” response to concerns that the franken-falfa could contaminate nearby fields, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer banned sales of the seeds and barred planting after March 30. Monsanto-whipped farmers protested, saying they’ve already bought seeds for late-spring sowing and will lose money. This year was the second that the Roundup Ready crop, engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s potent herbicide, was to be used in the U.S.; it already fills 200,000 of the country’s 23 million acres of alfalfa. “I hope this is just a bump in the road,” said California farmer Phillip Bowles. But others — including organic farmers, traditional seed companies, and green groups — hope that bump becomes a roadblock in April, when Breyer will consider making the ban permanent.