Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco ordered that genetically modified (GM) sugar beets planted in September should be destroyed, saying that they were planted in contravention of a previous court decision. He ruled that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had illegally allowed the planting of sugar beets genetically modified to resist Roundup Ready herbicide, despite an earlier court decision requiring the government agency to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to planting.
General counsel for Monsanto David Snively said: “With due respect, we believe the court’s action overlooked the factual evidence presented that no harm would be caused by these plantings, and is plainly inconsistent with the established law as recently announced by the US Supreme Court. We intend to seek an immediate stay of this ruling and appeal to the Court of Appeals.”
Monsanto is currently the only supplier of the GM sugar beets.
However, in his court order, Judge White said: “The legality of Defendants’ conduct does not even appear to be a close question. It appears clear that Defendants and Intervenor-Defendants were merely seeking to avoid the impact of the Court’s prior order.”
Monsanto said the issuing of permits by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was lawful and in line with established procedures.
Snively said: “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.”
GM sugar beets account for 95 percent of those being grown in the US, according to USDA figures, with beet sugar providing about half of the total US sugar supply.
Sugar beets planted prior to September are not affected by Judge White’s order to remove and destroy the crops, and are due to be processed as usual.