Sugar beets grown in the Western parts of the United States have recently gone biotech â€” in fact, beets, genetically engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), comprise 95% of the crop after two seasons of planting.Â Such widespread planting of GM beets threatens organic farmers, who are concerned that this year’s spring breezes will air pollinate their organic crops and consequently renderÂ their crops worthless. Citing these concerns, in addition to the ever growing problem of weed resistance (a.k.a. superweeds) caused by excessive use of the herbicide glyphosate, organic farmers and environmental groups will seek this week an injunction toÂ stop theÂ planting of the GM beets until the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (â€śAPHISâ€ť) conducts an environmental impact statement (â€śEISâ€ť).Â The lawsuit also seeks to bar the sale of sugar made from GM modified beets.
The plaintiffs seeking an injunction for GM sugar beets are not without precedent.Â In a similar case, a California District Court ruled in 2007 that the APHIS violated Federal law when it failed to conduct an EIS on Monsantoâ€™s Roundup Ready Alfalfa and granted an injunction to plaintiffs preventing further planting of GM alfalfa until an EIS was completed.Â APHIS released its draft EIS this past December and is accepting comments until March 3, 2010.Â Monsanto, in the meantime, appealed the case which will be heard by the Supreme Court sometime in April.
With little surprise, the industryâ€™s response has been to argue that such an injunction could jeopardize U.S. sugar supplies.Â One has to wonder, however, where the sugar come from prior to the genetic modification of sugar beets.
GMO Journal will continue to monitor this story as it develops.
For more on this topic, see the article from Miami Herald.