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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
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Last-Ditch Fight Against Roundup Ready Beets

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The U.S. Agriculture Department's decision to partially deregulate and allow planting of "Roundup ready" genetically modified sugar beets has been challenged again by the Center for Food Safety. The nonprofit watchdog group claims the USDA's Feb. 4 final environmental assessment did not adequately address the hazards of planting the beets that Monsanto genetically engineered to resist its herbicide Roundup.

The Center for Food Safety sued the USDA last year for issuing permits to plant the beets without proper environmental review.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White sided with the Center, finding that the USDA had violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Judge White ordered 256 acres of sugar beet stecklings removed from the ground.

That injunction was stayed by the 9th Circuit pending the USDA appeal.

The Center now claims that the USDA's Feb. 4 environmental assessment allows it to issue permits for spring planting in violation of NEPA.

In its complaint, the Center calls the USDA's approval of the beets a "commercialization scheme" and says the assessment "is substantially inadequate in that, among other things, it fails to adequately address the risk of transgenic contamination by RRSB [Roundup ready sugar beets]; fails to address relevant economic impacts; fails to adequately analyze impacts to the public interest; lacks an adequate and meaningful alternative analyses; fails to take hard look at cumulative impacts; and fails to adequately address impacts on public health."

The center says the Roundup ready sugar beets could harm the environment and contaminate other sugar beet crops, and closely related crops, including chard and table beets.

"Continued planting of RRSB plants will lead to heavier use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide because the GE [genetically engineered] crop's resistance to glyphosate removes the need to be judicious with the herbicide. This increased use will result in higher levels of toxicity in the surrounding environment as well as the emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds. Roundup ready crops are more susceptible to disease, as are conventional crops planted in fields in which Roundup ready crops have recently been grown," according to the complaint.

Roundup's active ingredient is glyphosate, which interferes with photosynthesis. It is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States; nearly 100 million pounds of it are applied annually. It accounts for about 10 percent of Monsanto's annual earnings.

The Center for Food Safety asks the court to enjoin the USDA from allowing any Roundup-resistant sugar beets to be planted until the agency prepares a proper environmental impact statement in compliance with NEPA.

The Center is represented by George Kimbrell.

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