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Judge's ruling uproots use of GM beets

1.VICTORY! FEDERAL COURT RESCINDS USDA APPROVAL OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SUGAR BEETS
2.Judge's ruling uproots use of biotechnology beets
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1.VICTORY! FEDERAL COURT RESCINDS USDA APPROVAL OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SUGAR BEETS

ORDER BANS PLANTING OR SALE OF CONTROVERSIAL CROP. COURT DENIES MONSANTO REQUEST TO ALLOW CONTINUED PLANTING

Today Judge Jeffrey White, federal district judge for the Northern District of California, issued a ruling granting the request of plaintiffs Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Sierra Club to rescind the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA’s) approval of genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" sugar beets (Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. C08-00484 JSW [N.D. Cal. 2010]). In September 2009, the Court had found that the USDA had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by approving the Monsanto-engineered biotech crop without first preparing an Environmental Impact Statement. The crop was engineered to resist the effects of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, which it sells to farmers together with the patented seed. Similar Roundup Ready crops have led to increased use of herbicides, proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds, and contamination of conventional and organic crops.

In today's ruling the Court officially "vacated" the USDA "deregulation" of Monsanto's biotech sugar beets and prohibited any future planting and sale pending the agency’s compliance with NEPA and all other relevant laws. USDA has estimated that an EIS may be ready by 2012.

Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of plaintiff and co-counsel the Center for Food Safety, stated, "This is a major victory for farmers, consumers and the rule of law. USDA has once again acted illegally and had its approval of a biotech crop rescinded. Hopefully the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto."

Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, commented: "Time and again, USDA has ignored the law and abdicated its duty to protect the environment and American agriculture from genetically engineered crops designed to sell toxic chemicals. Time and again, citizens speaking truth to power have taken USDA to court and won."

In his order, Judge White noted that USDA's "errors are not minor or insignificant," and his "concern that Defendants are not taking this process seriously." He also pointed out that "despite the fact that the statutes at issue are designed to protect the environment," USDA and the sugar beet industry focused on the economic consequences to themselves, yet "failed to demonstrate that serious economic harm would be incurred pending a full economic review...."

The Court held in part:

”¦the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' request to vacate APHIS's decision to deregulate genetically engineered sugar beets and remands this matter to APHIS. Based on this vacatur, genetically engineered sugar beets are once again regulated articles pursuant to the Plant Protection Act. This vacatur applies to all future plantings”¦

This is the second time a Court has rescinded USDA's approval of a biotech crop. The first such crop, Roundup Ready alfalfa, is also illegal to plant, based on the vacating of its deregulation in 2007 pending preparation of an EIS. Although Monsanto took that case all the way to the Supreme Court and the High Court set aside part of the relief granted, the full prohibition on its planting - based on the same remedy granted here, the vacatur - remains in place. In the past several years federal courts have also held illegal USDA's approval of biotech crop field trials, including the testing of biotech grasses in Oregon and the testing of engineered, pharmaceutical-producing crops in Hawai'i.

We could not have won this important case without you! Stay tuned to the website for updates, and thank you for all your support!
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2.Judge's ruling uproots use of biotechnology beets
MICHAEL LIEDTKE
Associated Press, 14 August 2010
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ggF-I0WscO7Ejo_-2GgVKjVFe7XQD9HJFJ8O0

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge has revoked the government's approval of genetically altered sugar beets until regulators complete a more thorough review of how the scientifically engineered crops affect other food.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White Friday means sugar beet growers won't be able to use the modified seeds after harvesting the biotechnology beets already planted on more than 1 million acres spanning 10 states from Michigan to Oregon. All the seed comes from Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Additional planting won't be allowed until the U.S. Department of Agriculture submits an environmental impact statement. That sort of extensive examination can take two or three years.

White declined a request to issue an injunction that would have imposed a permanent ban on the biotech beets, which Monsanto Co. developed to resist its popular weed killer, Roundup Ready. Farmers have embraced the technology as a way to lower their costs on labor, fuel and equipment.

The Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance and Sierra Club have been trying to uproot the biotech beets since filing a 2008 lawsuit.

Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety's executive director, hailed Friday's decision as a major victory in the fight against genetically engineered crops and chided the Agriculture Department for approving the genetically engineered seeds without a full environmental review.

"Hopefully, the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto," Kimbrell said in a statement.

Attempts to reach the Agriculture Department for comment Saturday were unsuccessful. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, referred requests for comment to the America Sugarbeet Growers Association, which pointed to a Saturday statement from the Sugar Industry Biotech Council.

In the statement, the sugar beet council said it intends to help the Agriculture Department come up with "interim measures" that would allow continued production of the genetically altered seeds while regulators conduct their environmental review.

If a temporary solution isn't found, the planting restrictions are likely to cause major headaches for sugar beet growers and food processors.

The genetically altered sugar beets provide about one-half of the U.S. sugar supply and some farmers have warned there aren't enough conventional seeds and herbicide to fill the void. The scientific seeds account for about 95 percent of the current sugar beet crop in the U.S.

"The value of sugar beet crops is critically important to rural communities and their economies," the Sugar Industry Biotech Council said Saturday.

White expressed little sympathy for any disruption his decision might cause. He noted in his 10-page ruling that regulators had time to prepare for the disruption because he had already overturned the deregulation of the genetically altered beets in a decision issued last September.

The Agriculture Department "has already had more than sufficient time to take interim measures, but failed to act expediently," White wrote.

Organic farmers, food safety advocates and conservation groups contend genetically altered crops such as the sugar beets could share their genes with conventionally grown food, such as chard and table beets.

Those arguments helped persuade another federal judge in San Francisco to stop the planting of genetically altered alfalfa seeds in 2007 pending a full environmental review that still hasn't been completed.

Monsanto took that case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June overturned an injunction against the company's sale of the modified seeds.