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Monsanto's Biotech Alfalfa Success Still Uncertain Despite Court Victory

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

When federal regulators gave farmers the green light to plant genetically modified alfalfa, some growers of the nation's fourth-largest crop celebrated. But others - even those supportive of the technology - responded to the news with mixed feelings.

Over the past five years, the widespread planting of genetically modified alfalfa, developed by Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, has been held up by a protracted court battle that made its way last year to the U.S. Supreme Court - the first case involving genetically engineered plants to land there.

But after the costly court battle, both sides concede that the government's decision last month to allow genetically modified alfalfa on American farmland may not deliver a financial blockbuster.

"Where does this go in the long term?" asked Steve Welker, who heads up Monsanto's alfalfa business. "That's a really good question."

The debate over alfalfa - the nation's fourth-largest crop after corn, soybeans and wheat - has simmered between predictable factions. On one side, Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, along with the hay, or forage, industry, which, for the most part, wants the technology in its farming arsenal; on the other, conventional and organic growers worried about genetically modified crops' cross-pollinating and contaminating their own.