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A victory for non-GMO beet growers

(article, Culinate staff)

Last year on Culinate, Kathleen Bauer highlighted the plight of some Willamette Valley beet growers here in Oregon, who were concerned that pollen from GMO sugar beets planted nearby could contaminate their conventional sugar-beet crops, table-beet crops, and even their Swiss chard (a beet variety). 

This week, however, these farmers received some good news. On Monday, a California judge ruled that the USDA illegally approved the genetically modified Roundup Ready sugar beets — so-called because they have been engineered to withstand Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller. (The GMO beets, too, are from Monsanto seed.) 

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Judge Jeffrey White has ruled that the USDA must provide an environmental impact statement that would include public input: 

bq. Planting genetically modified sugar beets has a "significant effect" on the environment, White said in his ruling Monday, because of "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."

Although the judge did not immediately ask for a halt in the distribution of the beets, lawyers for plaintiffs in the case told the Chronicle that they would ask the judge for an injunction against sales until the EIS was completed.

Meanwhile, Bauer is pleased. Over on her blog, she didn't mince words:

bq. Once in a while the good guys win, and \[Monday\] justice gave a big ol' smack upside the head to genetically modified seed developers and the people who regulate them. In the process it may help save organic seed growers in Oregon as well as consumers who don't want to eat genetically modified produce.