US sugar beet growers given go ahead to plant GM beet again

US growers will be able to plant genetically modified herbicide-tolerant sugar beet across the country this spring after a judge denied a motion calling for a temporary ban on planting.

A coalition of organic seed growers, and conservation and food safety groups had sought a temporary ban on the growing of Roundup Ready sugar beet in the United States after successfully arguing in a Northern California district court that the US Department of Agriculture had unlawfully approved the crop for commercial use.

The judge, Jeffrey White, had found that Roundup Ready sugar beet “may cross-pollinate with non-genetically engineered sugar beet and related Swiss chard and table beet” and ordered the USDA to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

However, in a ruling on 16 March, he denied the coalition’s request for a temporary ban on planting until the impact statement had been prepared.

A further hearing is scheduled for July when a decision will be made on whether to grant a permanent injunction against the planting of Roundup Ready sugar beet until the impact assessment has been carried out.

The ruling provided clarity for growers that the crop could be planted this spring, Steve Welker, Monsanto’s sugar beet business manager, said. Around 95% of the North American crop was planted with Roundup Ready varieties last season.

But a permanent injunction could still be issued, a statement from the court made clear. “The parties should not assume the Court’s decision to deny a preliminary injunction is indicative of its views on a permanent injunction pending the full environmental review that [the USDA’s] Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is required to do,” it said.

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