Federal Judge Rules Government Failed to Consider Environmental Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crop
December 1, 2010
In an unprecedented move, on November 30, 2010, Federal District Judge Jeffrey S. White issued a preliminary injunction ordering the immediate destruction of hundreds of acres of genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets that pose a serious risk to public health and the environment.
Last year, Judge White ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by allowing plantings without analyzing the potential environmental, health, socioeconomic impacts of growing GE sugar beets. In August 2010, the court made any future planting and sale of GE sugar beets unlawful until USDA prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Yet, almost immediately after the ruling, USDA issued permits allowing companies to plant seedlings to produce seed for future Roundup Ready sugar beets crops. In September, Sierra Club, the Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, and High Mowing Organic Seeds, represented by Earthjustice, sought a court order to halt the planting, and Judge White responded with the preliminary injunction, finding that the seedlings had been planted in violation of federal law.
Shortly after, USDA and Intervenors appealed the decision and filed emergency motions with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Judge White’s order. On December 6, the Ninth Circuit issued the stay, placing a hold on the order until December 23. During this time, the appeals panel will review the merits of the emergency motions and Sierra Club and its allies’ response, and determine whether to extend the stay while parties brief the merits of the appeal. Briefing on the merits will begin on December 29 and continue into early next year.
September 28, 2009
Sierra Club and its allies achieved a major win for sustainable agriculture and the environment when, on September 21, 2009, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of genetically engineered sugar beets before approving the crop for cultivation. Genetically engineered crops can contaminate nearby organic and non-genetically engineered crops, displace smaller-scale family farms, and harm surrounding biodiversity. Also, Monsanto’s genetically engineered sugar beets are impervious to the biotech giant’s toxic herbicide, Roundup, and the government failed to consider the cumulative environmental harm that would result from unregulated use of Roundup on “Roundup Ready” sugar beets.
The federal judge has not yet decided on a remedy for this case and a meeting to begin that phase is scheduled for October 30. Sierra Club, the Center for Food Safety, the Organic Seed Alliance and High Mowing Organic Seeds are involved in the sugar beet lawsuit and will continue to work diligently to ensure that the genetically engineered crop does not harm farmers or the environment.
Details and Documents:
Federal Court Orders First-Ever Destruction of a GMO Crop
November 30, 2010, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Order regarding the Remedies on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction
November 30, 2010, In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
Judge Rejects Approval of Biotech Sugar Beets
September 22, 2009 by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times
See other "Safeguarding Communities" cases.