Friday, March 19, 2010

Just in--Beet Season On!

2010 Beet Season in Full Swing, But Future Uncertain

San Francisco--Farmers can plant roundup-ready genetically modified sugar beets this year, that’s the word from California Federal Court.

Judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled against a temporary injunction filed by organic farmers out of Oregon. The ruling in effect allows farmers to plant, without further delay of the 2010 season.

"This ruling provides clarity that farmers can plant Roundup Ready sugarbeets in 2010," said Steve Welker, Monsanto Company's sugarbeet business manager.

Back on March 5, Judge White held a hearing to decide if preliminary injunctive relief was appropriate, pending completion of the case later this summer.

"Farmers have planted Roundup Ready sugarbeets for the past four years," added Welker. He stressed that the in the next phase of this case, Monsanto will demonstrate that a broad permanent injunction is not appropriate.

More than 95-percent of the nation's sugar supply comes from GMO beet seed and had the injunction been successful there wouldn't have been enough conventional seed for a full crop this year, according to court records. Beet industry insiders say the economic loss of the ban could have topped $1.5 billion.

But White did warn farmers and seed companies to not become too dependent on GMO seed.
"The parties should not assume that the court's decision to deny a preliminary injunction is indicative of its views on a permanent injunction," wrote White.

White added that until the U.S. Agriculture Department completes its court-ordered re-evaluation of the beets' environmental effects, White suggested that companies "take all efforts, going forward, to use conventional seed."

"We will prevail," said Idaho Beet Farmer Mike Garner. "We have a real good case, 95 percent of the industry switched to Roundup and had the injunction been successful it would have been catastrophic, food prices would skyrocket, no one is comfortable with that, nor wants it."

Sugarbeet growers say that Roundup Ready sugarbeets reduce impacts on the environment and make their operations more efficient and productive. Alternative technologies require more applications of pesticides, with greater impacts on the environment and lower productivity on farms.

More than 1 million acres of Roundup Ready sugarbeets were planted in 10 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. In North America last year, almost all sugarbeet acreage was safely planted with Roundup Ready seed.

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