GM beets banned on Friday the 13th, 2010, of all days. This comes as an unlucky break for the biotech industry and their “franken-food seed” industry.
A United States District federal judge has revoked a previous government ruling in favor of genetically modified sugar beets treated to survive being sprayed by the Roundup Herbicide sold by Monsanto.
The judge says until regulators thoroughly review the effects of GM crops on other foods the GM beets ban will remain in effect. Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled that sugar beet growers cannot use the GM seeds from over 1 million acres of biotechnology beets that have been planted across the western half of the United States this year. GM beets make up over 95% of the current sugar beet crop. The judges ruling will greatly disrupt sugar production as over 50% of sugar manufactured in this country come from sugar beets.
GM Beets Banned as they Are Harmful to Organic Crops
Organic and natural beet farmers have complained that genetically altered plants cross breed and share genes. This makes it difficult to maintain natural organic seeds. When organic beets are grown near Monsanto’s genetically modified crops, they cross pollinate. This is bad for the organic farmer who wants a pure organic beet crop that is not a hybrid that has cross pollinated with GM beets. Monsanto does not want organic seeds to mix with their patented GM beets either. Monsanto has been known to sue organic and natural farmers when their seeds naturally cross-breed with Monsanto’s patented GM seeds. This forces the farmers to destroy their contaminated seeds or risk being run out of business by the giant corporation. Independent scientists are beginning to question the safety of using GMO foods. They claim enough testing has not been done to assure consumers GMO foods are safe to eat.
GM Beets Banned Until Review on Environmental Impact
The GM beets in question were approved by the Department of Agriculture without proper environmental review. Judge White took all this into account when he made his 10 page ruling. GM beets cannot be planted until the U.S. Department of Agriculture submits an environmental impact statement on the effects of GM beets, which can take up to two or three years. He did not make a permanent injunction against the GM beet crop, however. The Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance and Sierra Club are working together to stop the biotech industry from planting GM beets in the United States. Together they filed a lawsuit in 2008.
Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety’s executive director, called Friday’s ruling a major victory for environmentalists.
“Hopefully, the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto,” Kimbrell said in a statement.
The sugar beet council released a statement saying it intends to help the Agriculture Department come up with “interim measures” that would allow continued production of the GM beets while regulators conduct their environmental review. They claim that this ruling will significantly impact domestic sugar production. Judge White wrote, in his ruling that the Agriculture Department “has already had more than sufficient time to take interim measures, but failed to act expediently.”