Judge orders removal of sugar beet seed plants
DES MOINES, IOWA: A federal judge in California has ordered the removal from the ground of plants grown to produce seeds for genetically modified sugar beets, citing the potential for environmental harm.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White has again raised questions about the use of genetically modified crops and what will happen if growers aren't allowed to plant GMO seeds.
About 95 percent of the sugar beet crop has been genetically modified to resist the weed killer Roundup. The crop provides roughly half of the nation's sugar supply.
In his decision, White cited, "a significant risk of environmental harm."
White ruled in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups challenging a decision in September by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services to issue permits to seed companies to plant sugar beet stecklings. The young plants produce seeds that then are planted to grow sugar beets.
The agency decided to issue the permits despite an August ruling by White that put a hold on future planting of genetically modified sugar beets. The ruling allowed this year's crop to be harvested and processed, but the current seed crop was not to be planted until the USDA reviewed the effects the crops could have on other food.
In his order Tuesday, White wrote that the environmental groups had shown that the genetically modified sugar beets could contaminate other crops, including through crosspollination.
"The likely environmental harm . is irreparable," White wrote.
The plants in question would produce seeds for crops to be planted in the spring of 2012. Crops that will be planted next spring won't be affected by the decision. Analysts have said an inability to plant genetically altered sugar beets would likely force a big jump in sugar imports and increased prices. -Ap