COURT FINDS USDA VIOLATED FEDERAL LAW BY ALLOWING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SUGAR BEETS ON THE MARKET
Government Failed To Evaluate Environmental and Economic Risks of Monsanto Product
San Francisco, CA - In a case brought by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice representing a coalition of farmers and consumers, a Federal Court ruled yesterday that the Bush USDA's approval of genetically engineered (GE) "RoundUp Ready" sugar beets was unlawful. The Court ordered the USDA to conduct a rigorous assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of the crop on farmers and the environment.
The federal district court for the Northern District of California ruled that the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ("APHIS") violated the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") when it failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") before deregulating sugar beets that have been genetically engineered ("GE") to be resistant to glyphosate herbicide, marketed by Monsanto as Roundup. Plaintiffs Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Seeds, represented by Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety, filed suit against APHIS in January 2008, alleging APHIS failed to adequately assess the environmental, health, and associated economic impacts of allowing "Roundup Ready" sugar beets to be commercially grown without restriction.
"This court decision is a wakeup call for the Obama USDA that they will not be allowed to ignore the biological pollution and economic impacts of gene altered crops," stated Andrew Kimbrell Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "The Courts have made it clear that USDA's job is to protect America's farmers and consumers, not the interests of Monsanto."
While industry asserts that the adoption rates of GE sugar beets has been high, food producers have shown reluctance in accepting GE beet sugar. Over 100 companies have joined the Non-GM Beet Sugar Registry opposing the introduction of GE sugar beets, and pledging to seek wherever possible to avoid using GM beet sugar in their products:http://www.seedsofdeception.com/includes/services/nongm_sugar_beet_registry_display.cfm .
Sugar beet seed is grown primarily in Oregon's Willamette Valley, which is also an important seed growing area for crops closely related to sugar beets, such as organic chard and table beets. GE sugar beets are wind pollinated and will inevitably cross-pollinate the related crops being grown in the same area. Such biological contamination would be devastating to organic farmers, who face debilitating market losses if their crops are contaminated by a GE variety. Contamination also reduces the ability of conventional farmers to decide what to grow, and limits consumer choice of the foods they can eat. In his September 21, 2009 order requiring APHIS to prepare an EIS, Judge Jeffrey S. White emphasized that "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, is an action that potentially eliminates or reduces the availability of a particular plant has a significant effect on the human environment."
The Court found "no support in the record" for APHIS' conclusion that conventional sugar beets would remain available for farmers and consumers and held that the agency's decision that there would be no impacts from the GE beets "unreasonable."
The Court also held that APHIS failed to analyze the impacts of biological contamination on the related crops of red table beets and Swiss chard. "Organic seed is the foundation of organic farming and organic food integrity, said Mathew Dillon, Director of Advocacy of the Organic Seed Alliance. "We must continue to protect this natural resource, along with the rights of organic farmers to be protected from negative economic impact from GE crops, and consumers rights' to choose to eat food free of GE components."
"The ruling is a major consumer victory for preserving the right to grow and eat organic foods in the United States," stated Neil Carman of the Sierra Club. "Environmental impacts of Roundup Ready sugar beets were also not considered by APHIS, and they need to be fully evaluated."
8 0Roundup Ready" crops allow farmers to douse their fields with Monsanto's Roundup herbicide without killing the crop. Constant application of the herbicide has resulted in weeds becoming resistant to it. There are now millions of acres across the U.S. of such "superweeds," including marestail, ragweed, and waterhemp, and farmers are using greater applications of Roundup or other, even more toxic chemicals. According to an independent analysis of USDA data by former Board of Agriculture Chair of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Charles Benbrook, GE crops increased herbicide use in the U.S. by 122 million pounds – a 15-fold increase – between 1994 (when GE herbicide-tolerant crops were introduced) to 2004.
Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff noted, "Although touted by Monsanto as offering all sorts of benefits, GE crops offer consumers nothing, and are designed primarily to sell herbicides. The end result of their use is more toxics in our environment and our food, disappointed farmers, and revenue for Monsanto."
A 2008 scientific study revealed that Roundup formulations and metabolic products cause the death of human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cells in vitro even at low concentrations. Other recent studies suggest Roundup is an endocrine=2 0disrupter, and that some amphibians and other organisms may be at risk from glyphosate.
In addition, Judge Jeffrey S. White – in his ruling – has scheduled a meeting in his courtroom on October 30, 2009 to discuss the remedies phase of the case, including potential injunctive relief.
Monsanto has been the subject of increasing speculation that the Department of Justice's antitrust division is scrutinizing the biotechnology company's control of the markets for GE crops, and for commodities such as corn, soy and cotton.
The case is Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. C 08-00484 JSW (N.D. Cal. 2009). The decision follows on the heels of a June 2009 decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the illegality of the APHIS' approval of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa.
Paul H. Achitoff
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Honolulu, HI 96813
And another article reporting the good news :)
Organic farmers win court victory in genetic sugar beet battle
Story Updated: Sep 23, 2009 at 7:44 AM PDT
By JEFF BARNARD AP Environmental Writer GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -
A federal judge overturned government approval of a variety of sugar beet genetically engineered to resist a popular weed killer produced by agricultural giant Monsanto, according to a ruling released Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco found the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service violated environmental law by failing to take a "hard look" at whether "Roundup Ready" sugar beets would eventually share their genes with other crops.
Noting that pollen from genetically altered sugar beets could be blown by the wind long distances to related crops, such as chard and table beets, the judge ordered the agency to produce an environmental impact statement examining the issue.
"The potential elimination of farmers' choice to grow nongenetically engineered crops, or consumers' choice to eat nongenetically engineered food ... has a significant effect on the human environment," White wrote.
The plant inspection agency is reviewing the ruling, said spokeswoman Suzanne Bond.
A lesser level of review, known as an environmental assessment, found no significant impact from introducing a ground bacteria gene tolerant of the herbicide into the sugar beet genome, noting that if pollen spread the genes to wild beets, they were considered a weed, and no cause for concern.
The ruling was a second blow for St. Louis-based Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops. While soy beans, corn, cotton, and canola genetically engineered to withstand the company's popular weed-killer have been in wide commercial production for years, a similar ruling in 2007 forced a ban on planting Roundup Ready alfalfa until a re-examination was done. That environmental impact statement is not yet done.
It was not immediately clear what impact the ruling would have on the U.S. sugar crop, about half of which comes from Roundup Ready sugar beets. The judge did not address the harvest of the current crop. Roundup Ready beet seed saves growers on labor, fuel costs and equipment wear.
But the organic farmers, food safety advocates and conservation groups that brought the lawsuit will ask the judge Oct. 30 for an injunction banning new plantings until the re-examination is done, said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff.
American Sugar Beet Growers Association spokesman Luther Markwart said he did not know how much nongenetically altered seed was available if the judge grants the ban.
"Clearly we are going to vigorously defend our farmers' freedom to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets," Markwart said. "All this has to do with how we make our case."
Most of the seed is produced in Oregon's Willamette Valley, but the crop is grown on 1.1 million acres in 11 states from Michigan to California, Markwart said.
Frank Morton, an organic seed grower in the Willamette Valley town of Philomath and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said steps were taken to keep similar crops apart to prevent cross-pollination, but Roundup Ready seed growers would not divulge which fields were growing genetically altered crops.
He added that he had to pay $300 each time he tested his seeds for genetic contamination, and the first time it is found the crop becomes worthless.
"This industry could be destroying the crop value of organic growers and organic growers would not have the slightest idea they were in danger until their stuff turned up contaminated," he said. "This is why I made a stink about this."
Achitoff said besides genetic contamination, they were concerned Roundup Ready crops were creating new strains of weeds resistant to herbicides.
Monsanto spokesman Garrett Kasper said from company headquarters in St. Louis that the ruling was largely procedural and did not question the safety of Roundup Ready crops.
"The issue of weed resistance, as far as we are concerned, is something that is able to be controlled through the properties of chemicals and working with our technical advisers in the field," he said. "Roundup Ready technology uses less herbicide than conventional, which is why it was so readily adopted by growers."
BetaSeed Inc. in Tangent, which produces sugar beet seed, did not immediately return a call for comment.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Friday, September 25, 2009
Great News!!! A Win for the people!! :D
COURT FINDS USDA VIOLATED FEDERAL LAW BY ALLOWING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SUGAR BEETS ON THE MARKET