Court rejects GMO sugar beets!

In another important case against Monsanto and the USDA, the Center for Food Safety has again prevailed, demonstrating that GMOs pose serious risk of harm to organic farmers and consumers, and that the USDA is failing to sufficiently protect us from the contamination that can result from the planting of these crops – this time in Sugar beets! As lead counsel for CFS on this case, I’m excited to share the news with you!

A Federal Court ruled yesterday that the Bush USDA’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) “RoundUp Ready” sugar beets was unlawful. The Court ordered the USDA to conduct a rigorous assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of the crop on farmers and the environment.

The federal district court for the Northern District of California ruled that the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS”) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) when it failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) before deregulating sugar beets that have been genetically engineered (“GE”) to be resistant to glyphosate herbicide, marketed by Monsanto as Roundup.

This court decision is a wakeup call for the Obama USDA that they will not be allowed to ignore the biological pollution and economic impacts of GE crops … The Courts have made it clear that USDA’s job is to protect America’s farmers and consumers, not the interests of Monsanto.

Additionally, over 100 companies have joined the Non-GM Beet Sugar Registry opposing the introduction of GE sugar beets, and pledging to seek wherever possible to avoid using GM beet sugar in their products: Check out the registry, and pass it on to food producers who want to stand in solidarity to reject this GE crop.

Sugar beet seed is grown primarily in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which is also an important seed growing area for crops closely related to sugar beets, such as organic chard and table beets. GE sugar beets are wind pollinated and will inevitably cross-pollinate the related crops being grown in the same area. Such biological contamination would be devastating to organic farmers, who face debilitating losses when their crops are contaminated by a GE variety. Contamination also reduces the ability of conventional farmers to decide what to grow, and limits consumer choice of the foods they can eat. In his September 21, 2009 order requiring APHIS to prepare an EIS, Judge Jeffrey S. White emphasized that “the potential elimination of a farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food, is an action that potentially eliminates or reduces the availability of a particular plant has a significant effect on the human environment.”

The Court found that the USDA failed to analyze the impacts of biological contamination on the related crops of red table beets and Swiss chard. Because organic seed is the foundation of organic farming and organic food integrity, and “organic” rules explicitly exclude GMOs, this GE crop threatened all organic chard and beets in the U.S. This victory is another step in protecting non-GE seeds along with the rights of organic farmers to be protected from negative economic impact from GE crops, and consumers rights’ to choose to eat food free of GE components.

“Roundup Ready” crops allow farmers to douse their fields with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide without killing the crop. Constant application of the herbicide has resulted in weeds becoming resistant to it. There are now millions of acres across the U.S. of such “superweeds,” including marestail, ragweed, and waterhemp, and farmers are using greater applications of Roundup or other, even more toxic chemicals. According to an independent analysis of USDA data by former Board of Agriculture Chair of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Charles Benbrook, GE crops increased herbicide use in the U.S. by 138 million pounds – a huge increase of these herbicides attributed to GE crops.

There is also mounting evidence that Roundup itself is very harmful. A 2008 scientific study revealed that Roundup formulations and metabolic products cause the death of human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cells in vitro even at low concentrations. Other recent studies suggest Roundup is an endocrine disrupter, and that some amphibians and other organisms may be at risk from glyphosate.

Now that Judge White ruled in our favor, we now take Monsanto into the courtroom to move for a permanent injunction to halt the sale and planting of GE sugar beet seed, just like we did in the GE Alfalfa case…

For you lawyers out there, the case is Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. C 08-00484 JSW (N.D. Cal. 2009). The decision follows on the heels of a June 2009 decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the illegality of the APHIS’ approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered alfalfa, which Monsanto says they will now Petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review…

Stay tuned!

For press coverage, check out:
SF Chronicle:

NY Times:

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6 Responses to “Court rejects GMO sugar beets!”

  1. Wellescent Health Blog Says:

    It is good to see that the courts are preventing attempts to cut corners in the approval process. Genetically modified organisms are products that do not have decades of history behind them to show that they are safe so it is imperative that for these products that we are going to consume and are going to grow in the natural environment, that all precautionary steps are taken to demonstrate safety and minimize risk of harm.

  2. Frederic Kuzyk Says:

    This is great news, we need to keep fighting hard against Monsanto and the corrupt USDA (by lobbying) or else GMOs will take over our clean crops.

  3. Rich Says:

    Yesher Koach.

    One minor note – waterhemp did not develop a resistance to Roundup. It is inherently resistant to roundup and is the donor of the gene that is used to make other crops “roundup ready.”

  4. Ro Elgas Says:

    You Guys rock! Congratulations.
    Thanks for the great work.
    Ro Elgas
    A Bee Organic

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