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GM alfalfa ban in US maintained on appeal

A federal appeals court in the United States upheld a nationwide ban on the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The government has to complete a study on whether the altered seeds would contaminate other farmers' alfalfa crops.

On March 30, 2007 the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a federal judge's decision that halted the planting of Monsanto Co.'s herbicide-resistant strain of alfalfa.

Alfalfa growers filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, because they are afraid that the engineered product, spread by winds and bees, would pollinate their crops and take over their fields. The Center for Food Safety, which represented the concerned alfalfa growers spoke of "a major victory for farmers, both conventional and organic, for consumers and for the environment."

It helps consumers who don't want dairy products from cattle that forage on altered alfalfa and protects growers who want to export crops to Japan, which bans genetically modified alfalfa. The targeted alfalfa is made resistant against Monsanto's herbicide Roundup Ready.

Alfalfa, used for hay and cattle feed, is grown on 9.2 million hectares in the US and is the fourth largest crop. California, with 400,000 hectares, is the leading producer. The courts decision is the first-ever ruling against a genetically altered, government-approved commercial crop, said the Center for Food Safety.

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