Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets were introduced to farmers during the 2008-2009 crop season. Farmers across the U.S. and Canada used the technology on their farms, creating the fastest adoption of any biotech crop to date.
However, on Jan. 21, 2008, the Center for Food Safety and other biotech opponents initiated a legal action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the deregulation of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Subsequently, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White ruled the USDA would have to complete an Environmental Impact Statement for Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets. The ruling focused on the process used by the USDA in deregulating Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets and in no way questioned the safety or benefits of the product.
Sugarbeet growers have confirmed Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets reduce impacts on the environment and make them more efficient and productive. Alternative technologies require more applications of pesticides, with greater impacts on the environment and lower productivity on farms. This is why more than 1 million acres of Roundup Ready sugarbeet varieties have been planted in 10 U.S. states, and Canadian growers have planted more than 37,000 acres in two provinces.
In early 2010, the plaintiffs asked the Court to prohibit further planting, cultivation, processing, or other use of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets until the EIS was completed. Judge White allowed farmers to continue to plant Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets in 2010 while considering the plaintiffs’ motion. On August 13, Judge White vacated USDA’s deregulation of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets and said USDA must act to authorize future plantings. However, his order also stipulated that Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets planted before the August 13 ruling were not affected and farmers could proceed with harvest and processing of these crops without interference,
On Sept. 1, 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced next steps in response to the recent court decision on Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets. The USDA news release is here.
On Sept. 9, 2010, the Center for Food Safety filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging USDA’s September issuance of permits to seed companies authorizing the additional planting of certain limited and isolated steckling acreage for various purposes. Much of the 2010 Roundup Ready sugarbeet seed crop had already been planted over the summer. While not a defendant in this lawsuit, Monsanto requested and been granted intervener status.
Following a hearing in October, the Court issued a preliminary injunction holding that issuing the permits violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and ordered the stecklings be uprooted. USDA and other interveners appealed the ruling. The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has issued a stay of the order to destroy the stecklings until February 28, 2011 and will consider on appeal the decision by Judge White overturning the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issuance of the permits. Our appeal argues that APHIS’s granting of the permits was a lawful and measured action supported by both past APHIS practice and established procedures, and that the injunction is improper.
The Sept. 9, 2010 lawsuit is unrelated to the pending USDA decision on whether to allow the Roundup Ready sugarbeet crop farmers hope to plant in 2011.
Regarding the 2011 Roundup Ready sugarbeet crop, on November 2, 2010, APHIS announced the availability of a draft environmental assessment, which evaluates alternatives for authorizing future cultivation of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets pending completion of the full EIS, and gave notice of a 30-day period for submitting comments.