Judge or­ders re­moval of sugar beet seed plants

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

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

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