A federal judge has ordered that hundreds of acres of genetically engineered sugar beet seedlings be destroyed because they were planted in violation of federal law. The ruling is a victory for plaintiffs Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety, who sued on behalf of a coalition of farmers, consumers and environmentalists. The GE beet seedlings were planted in September with full knowledge and permission from the USDA. The beets are genetically modified by Monsanto to be “Roundup Ready”, meaning they are impervious to the weedkiller Roundup. Monsanto announced today that it will appeal the ruling.
Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice remarked, “USDA thumbed its nose at the judicial system and the public by allowing this crop to be grown without any environmental review. Herbicide resistant crops just like this have been shown to result in more toxic chemicals in our soil and water. USDA has shown no regard for the environmental laws, and we’re pleased that Judge White ordered the appropriate response.” A previous ruling found that the USDA was in violation of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and an August ruling made any planting of the GE beets illegal until the USDA completes an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the GE beets; the USDA expects to complete the EIS in 2012.
The planting that is being destroyed is of stecklings, used to create seeds for future crops. Half the country’s sugar comes from sugar beets, and 95% of those beets are now genetically modified. Monsanto sells the herbicide Roundup and the patented GE seed to farmers, creating a dependence on, and further use of, the chemical herbicide. Roundup Ready crops have led to increased use of toxic herbicides and the development of herbicide-resistant “superweeds,” as well as contamination of conventional and organic crops.
Speaking about yesterday’s court order, Center for Food Safety’s Senior Staff Attorney George Kimbrell said, “The public interest has prevailed over USDA’s repeated efforts to implement the unlawful demands of the biotech industry.” Monsanto general counsel Stivley stated, “The issues that will be appealed are important to all US farmers who choose to plant biotech crops. We will spare no effort in challenging this ruling on the basis of flawed legal procedure and lack of consideration of important evidence.”
Photo of sugar beet crop © Stephanie Jaenicke via iStockphoto