The USDA must complete an Environmental Impact Study before Monsanto's GM sugar beets will be allowed to continue being grown for commercial use, a federal appeals court decided in late May.
Monsanto's Genuity Roundup Ready sugar beets were first approved by the USDA in 2005 without a proper EIS assessment, in what's being called by the biotech giant themselves as "the fastest adoption of biotech crops to date."
Then, in 2008, environmental and food safety organizations sued Monsanto and the USDA out of fears that the GM beets would cause crop drift contamination.
In 2009, they received a small victory when a judge supported the plaintiffs concluding that the USDA should have prepared a comprehensive EIS before approving the commercialization of the sugar beets, but Monsanto was still permitted to plant the GM sugar beets in certain areas despite the ruling.
The EIS assessment was never fully completed and GM sugar beets have continued to be planted, that is until a Ninth Circuit of Appeal summary order issued in May 2011 rejected Monsanto's appeal, ordering the USDA to complete the EIS. The USDA estimates finishing the EIS on Monsanto's GM sugar beets in 2012 and making a decision based on a review of the data.
This victory comes in the wake of a severe disappointment to the anti-GMO movement and organic farmers who were invited to discuss a 'conditional deregulation' of Monsanto's GM alfalfa late in 2010. The industry had hopes they'd be able to defend crop drift contamination from the GM alfalfa, but USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack reneged on his proposed compromise, fully deregulating the biotech crop and putting non-GMO alfalfa farmers at a tremendous risk of crop contamination.
Genetically modified foods require labeling in more than 30 countries and are banned throughout most of Europe. Research has linked consuming GM foods with a number of serious health issues including neurological disorders, organ damage and certain types of cancer.
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Photo: Dag Endresen