A federal judge has revoked the government’s approval of genetically engineered sugar beets (engineered by Monsanto) in a ruling that marks a major upset for the chemical corporation. The decision, by Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco, appears to essentially ban the planting of the genetically-modified (GM) sugar beets until the Agriculture Department prepares an environmental impact statement and approves the crop again, which could take several years.
The ruling says that the Agriculture Department had not adequately assessed the environmental consequences before approving them for commercial cultivation; the case stems from a lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety (a Washington advocacy group that opposes biotech crops) over Monsanto sugar beets engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Roundup is also manufactured by Monsanto and was sold to farmers together with the GM sugar beet seeds–a nice little matching set. (A set which guarantees farmers’ dependence on Monsanto products.)
In a previous ruling, Judge White said the department had not sufficiently assessed the consequences from the potential spread of the genetically engineered trait to other sugar beets or to the related crops of Swiss chard and red table beets.
Sugar beets account for over half of the nation’s sugar supply. And although GM advocates are screaming “SUGAR SHORTAGE!”–conventional sugar beet seeds remain widely available and the environmentalists filing the suit said that the judge’s decision should not significantly affect sugar production.