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Hey USDA, was the GMO sugar beet illegally approved?

October 1, 2009
Intensive agriculture - Sugar beet field
Image by Gilles San Martin via Flickr

According the Organic Consumer’s Association, the USDA had illegally approved genetically modified sugar beets to be put into production and used to make sugar for Americans, nationwide:

SAN FRANCISCO — The government illegally approved a genetically modified, herbicide-resistant strain of sugar beets without adequately considering the chance they will contaminate other beet crops, a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled.

[Sugar beet at harvest time (Flickr photo by grabe)]Sugar beet at harvest time (Flickr photo by grabe)

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White rejected the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s decision in 2005 to allow Monsanto Co. to sell the sugar beets, known as “Roundup-Ready” because they are engineered to coexist with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

What’s frightening about this is not just the GMO aspect of it, which is terrifying in and of itself, because who wants to have genetically modified food in their bodies with cancer rates as high as they are anyway, but the fact that all of these crops were produced to make the use of Round-Up sprays more effective.  It’s not as though the GMO strains were designed to increase the nutritional values of foods; they were designed to not die when sprayed with an herbicide.

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.”

He said the department must prepare an environmental impact statement, which would include public input.

White did not immediately prohibit distribution of the genetically modified sugar beets, but a lawyer for plaintiffs in the case said they would ask the judge for an injunction against sales until the review was completed.

The ruling “sends a very clear message to the USDA to protect American farmers and consumers and not the interests of Monsanto,” said Kevin Golden, a San Francisco attorney for the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, which opposes genetically modified foods and supports organic farming.

Perhaps farmers will also get more information and consumer feedback this way, but thank goodness some people are standing up to Monsanto.

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