Calif. Judge makes harsh ruling against GM-sugar beet seeds

The saga over genetically modified sugar beets continues to unfold with the latest ruling on Tuesday by Judge Jeffrey S. White of the United States District for Northern California banning farmers from planting Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet seeds next spring. Judge White also ordered farmers to pull 256 acres of the GM baby beet plants from the ground. Currently, these genetically modified seeds make up 95 percent of the total U.S. sugar beet acreage, and a halt in their production would lead to a 20 percent drop in sugar production over the next two years as well as a concurrent price increase for consumers and food processors.

Judge White issued a similar judgment in August, declaring that the herbicide-resistant sugar beets could no longer be grown until the U.S. Department of Agriculture submitted an environmental impact survey. The USDA was able to provide a temporary order to allow continued raising of the genetically-modified sugar beets until Judge White issued his latest injunction Tuesday in a trial prompted by lawsuits from a number of allied environmental groups acting under the leadership of the Center for Food Safety.

“It’s amazing how small groups have the power to run roughshod over science-based agricultural methods and policies,” notes ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.

“These GM products have been around for a long time, and the Roundup Ready seeds were one of the first herbicide-resistant manipulations introduced. Its danger to human health or possibility of spreading to other fields has been documented to be extraordinarily low,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “A more logical Judge would have figured out a way to let farmers continue to plant and harvest these beets, but Judge White decided he was going to teach everyone a lesson, and now there’s great uncertainty over whether they’ll be planted next year.”