(CN) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture illegally approved a genetically modified strain of sugar beets, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said the government disregarded how the herbicide-resistant sugar beets, labeled “Roundup Ready,” would affect other beet varieties.
White disagreed with the USDA’s finding that the Roundup Ready beets would have no significant environmental effects, citing studies showing that because wind-borne sugar beet pollen can travel distances of up to 864,000 meters, the genetically modified variety grown in one Oregon valley would likely contaminate other beet crops.
White ordered the government to prepare an environmental impact statement, saying the USDA did not consider “the potential elimination of a farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food.”
The government had deregulated the Roundup Ready sugar beets in response to a petition by KWS SAAT AG, the parent company of seed producers Monsanto and Betaseed.
The decision was challenged by the Center for Food Safety, the Organic Seed Alliance, the Sierra Club and High Mowing Organic Seeds.
The judge said the government’s deregulation of genetically modified sugar beets “has a significant effect on the human environment,” as the USDA also failed to analyze whether voluntary distance barriers put in place by Oregon’s agricultural officials would sufficiently protect non-genetically engineered crops of other sugar beets, table beets and Swiss chard also grown in Willamette Valley.