Farmers are allowed to harvest Monsanto’s genetically engineered sugar beets this spring, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, saying economic strain would be too much if the crops are barred now.
The proposal to halt GM sugar beet crops, which account for about half the national sugar supply, came after environmental and organic groups sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its approval, saying the crops can cross-pollinate conventional beets, making them resistant to certain pesticides.
Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California in San Francisco denied the preliminary injunction, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.
White argued the Center for Food Safety and other plaintiffs could have filed the ban request earlier and reprimanded them for filing the suit so late in the season, as many GM seeds have already been planted.
Last year, nearly 95 percent of sugar beet acreage was planted with the GM seed, Roundup Ready, which have a bacteria gene to survive sprayings of Monsanto’s popular weed killer, Roundup.
If White had ruled against planting the GM crops, 5,800 jobs and $283.6 million in growers’ profits, stretching 1 million acres in 10 states, would have been lost, according to a Monsanto expert who testified in the trial.
"Moreover, an injunction which would ban the planting and processing of genetically engineered sugar beets in 2010 would have a large detrimental impact on the United States' domestic sugar supply and price," White said in his eight-page ruling, according to the Associated Press.
The future of GM crops, however, will still be a long, controversial battle. “While the environmental review is pending, the court is inclined to order the Intervenor-Defendants to take all efforts… to use conventional (non-GM) seed,” White said. Paul Achitoff, an attorney for Earthjustice, said White’s comments favoring conventional crops were promising for the future of organic seed growers. "We will ask the court to halt the use of genetically engineered sugar beets and seeds until the federal government does its job to protect consumers and farmers alike," Achitoff said, according to AP. Monsanto has said repeatedly it would fight future orders. White scheduled a hearing July 9 to discuss bans on future plantings, according to AP. Sources: Associated Press. “Judge allows genetically engineered beet harvest,” http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gVu0MxvuT22Db5-iy...; 17 March 2010. St. Louis Business Journal. “Judge sides with Monsanto on beet ban,” http://stlouis.bizjournals.com/stlouis/stories/2010/03/15/daily27.html; 17 March 2010.