Monsanto to appeal ruling against GMO sugarbeets

Wed Dec 1, 2010 8:13pm GMT

 * Court on Tuesday ordered beet seedlings uprooted
 By Carey Gillam
 KANSAS CITY, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co (MON.N: Quote) said on
Wednesday it would appeal a U.S. court order that the company's
biotech sugarbeet seedlings be uprooted.
 The "secklings" planted by U.S. farmers are aimed at
developing seed for a future crop, are harmless, and removing
them will be costly for producers, said Monsanto, the world's
biggest seed company.
 "The issues that will be appealed are important to all U.S.
farmers who choose to plant biotech crops," Monsanto attorney
David Snively said. "We will spare no effort in challenging
this ruling on the basis of flawed legal procedure and lack of
consideration of important evidence."
 U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White on Tuesday sided
with environmentalists in ruling that recent plantings of
"Roundup Ready" biotech sugarbeet seedlings violated the
court's ban against planting the biotech beets, and said the
seedlings "shall be removed from the ground".
 White issued the ban in August after finding the U.S.
Department of Agriculture illegally approved the genetically
altered crop technology five years ago without conducting a
required environmental impact review.
 But shortly after the ruling, the USDA issued permits
allowing companies to plant seedlings to produce seed for
future GMO sugarbeet crops.
 Earthjustice, a consumer group that brought the case
against the USDA and had asked the judge to order the young
plants be destroyed, said the action was the first
court-ordered destruction of a GMO crop.
 Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said the plaintiffs
were confident that the judge's ruling would be upheld.
 Sugarbeets account for more than half the U.S. sugar
supply. Monsanto's Roundup Ready beets have been popular with
farmers as they can withstand sprayings of the chemical
herbicide Roundup, making weed management easier.
 Environmentalists say widespread use of the crop leads to
increased use of herbicides, proliferation of
herbicide-resistant weeds, and contamination of conventional
and organic crops.
 Monsanto, which owns intellectual property rights to the
sugarbeet technology, has intervened in the case with limited
standing. The chief defendant is the USDA.
 Monsanto said on Wednesday that more than 1 million acres
of Roundup Ready sugarbeet varieties had been planted in 10
U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.
 Roughly 95 percent of the 2010 sugarbeet acreage in North
America was safely planted with Roundup Ready varieties,
Monsanto said. The technology reduces applications of
pesticides and increases farm productivity, it said.
 USDA officials said the department was in discussions with
the Department of Justice and exploring all options regarding
the case.
 Earlier this month, the USDA issued a draft proposal for
handling of the GMO beets. It said it was considering allowing
Monsanto beets back in the fields by next year under a permit
subject to conditions "to prevent any potential plant pest
 Plaintiffs in the case include the Center for Food Safety,
Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds and the Sierra
 (Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Dale Hudson)

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