Another Shot Fired in Genetic Crop Wars

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The Center for Food Safety claims the U.S. Agriculture Department blew off a judge’s order and violated its own regulations by issuing permits for genetically engineered sugar beets. The beets are genetically altered to resist the herbicide Roundup, and the USDA permits will encourage use of the chemical, according to the federal complaint.

     “The environmental impacts associated with growing genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops are well documented,” the complaint states. “Wind-blown pollen from GE sugar beets will contaminate conventional sugar beets and other closely related crops, such as chard and table beets. Such biological contamination is costly to detect and detrimental to farmers and consumers.”
     The Center for Food Safety says this Roundup-resistant beet from Monsanto will be planted “in and after September 2010.”
     Joining as plaintiffs, the Sierra Club and an organic seed company say use of the genetically modified seeds will encourage the overuse of Roundup (glyphosate), which is toxic to humans and wildlife.
     The USDA failed to do a thorough environmental study, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, but “circumvent(ed) NEPA’s requirements by proposing to use its Plant Protection Act field trial permitting process, usually utilized for experimental trials, to allow the continued planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets intended for commercial use, without any analysis of environmental impacts whatsoever,” the complaint states.
     In August, U.S. District Judge Jeffery White enjoined the growing of genetically modified sugar beets, ruling the USDA had not conducted a sufficient environmental review.
The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment that the USDA violated White’s Aug. 13 ruling, and want planting of the genetically modified beets enjoined until Monsanto’s seeds comply with NEPA.
     The Center for Food Safety is represented by George Kimbrell of San Francisco.

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