Court Orders Removal of Genetically Engineered Sugar Beet Seed Crop; Finds Government and Monsanto rushed to illegally plant herbicide resistant crop

Today Federal District Judge Jeffrey S. White issued a preliminary injunction ordering the immediate destruction of hundreds of acres of genetically engineered (GE) sugar beet seedlings planted in September after finding the seedlings had been planted in violation of federal law. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety on behalf of a coalition of farmers, consumers, and conservation groups. The lawsuit was filed on September 9, shortly after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed it had allowed the seedlings to be planted.

The court outlined the many ways in which GE sugar beets could harm the environment and consumers, noting that containment efforts were insufficient and past contamination incidents were “too numerous” to allow the illegal crop to remain in the ground. In his court order, Judge White noted, “farmers and consumers would likely suffer harm from cross-contamination” between GE sugar beets and non-GE crops. He continued, “the legality of Defendants’ conduct does not even appear to be a close question,” noting that the government and Monsanto tried to circumvent his prior ruling, which made GE sugar beets illegal.

A Letter from High Mowing Seeds Founder Tom Stearns:

I am thrilled to announce that yesterday the 9th Circuit Court in California ruled in our favor in the High Mowing Organic Seeds lawsuit against the USDA regarding the premature deregulation of Monsanto's GMO sugar beets.  We've won!!!  We were joined in the suit by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), Organic Seed Alliance and the Sierra Club and were represented by CFS and Earth Justice attorneys.

This ruling means that the USDA will likely require much more thorough research and a full Environmental Impact Study prior to allowing more GE crops to be released.  It may also result in a moratorium on any more GMO sugar beets getting planted.

The USDA has a lot of work to do, but is recently making great progress.  I hope that this lawsuit will confirm for them that people really care about our food system and keeping it safe and healthy.

For those who are curious, here is a copy of the actual court ruling. (PDF file)

Thank you all so much for all of the great work that you do and for your support of your local farmers.  The tide is turning . . .
Tom
September, 2009