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Originally published May 19 2010

Lawsuit seeks to ban genetically modified sugar beets

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A group of Oregon farmers are seeking an injunction against this year's planting of Monsanto's genetically engineered sugar beets. The groups of organic farmers, food safety advocates and conservationists, is seeking to persuade a judge to ban the crop until the USDA provides a proper environmental impact statement proving that the crops are safe and that they will not cross-contaminate nearby fields.

The debate over whether or not to allow GE crops into the food supply has been a hotly debated one, but the biotech industry has been the side unable to prove that its products are safe. Those concerned about the negative consequences of GE crops have plenty of unresolved questions that demand answers prior to any GE crop being approved. Yet in reality, the USDA has succumbed to industry pressure instead, jeopardizing the entire food industry.

Nearly half of the nation's sugar beets are genetically modified. They can be found planted on more than one million acres across ten states. The beets have been engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's "RoundUp" herbicide, but their components are not limited to the fields in which they are planted, spreading across the landscape via pollen and seeds carried in the wind. Because it is impossible to track where GE plant fragments end up, there is no ensuring that any crop is truly non-GE or organic.

Concerned groups already won a previous lawsuit that required federal officials to reevaluate their 2005 approval of unrestricted GE beet plantings in light of allegations that the government agencies failed to properly evaluate their environmental impacts. Now they hope to stop any further plantings of the crop until the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducts a proper analysis, a process which could take upwards of three years.

Until then, the plaintiffs hope to eliminate all sales of GE beet sugar because it was unlawfully deregulated in the first place. "Legally, they shouldn't be on the market," explained Paul Achitoff, an attorney for Earthjustice, in an AP article.

"The sugar beets were unlawfully deregulated," he opined. "The court has already found that."

Frank Morton, one of the Oregon farmers who is suing the USDA, explained that he has already found GE pollen on his own crops. He grows organic seed for vegetables on his farm, but because of the pollen contamination, his crops are now worthless in the organic market.

Sprouts from GE sugar beets are also randomly showing up in people's farms and gardens, including in compost sold at local garden centers in Oregon.

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