Genuity Roundup Ready Sugarbeets

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.

Timeline of Key Events with Roundup Ready Sugarbeets
2005 Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets go on the market following USDA/FDA approvals
2006-2007 Large-scale commercial demonstrations of the crop in fields across the U.S.
2008-2009 Farmers create the fastest adoption rate of any biotech crop to date, planting approximately 95% of sugarbeet acres with Roundup Ready technology January 21, 2008 The Center for Food Safety (CFS), Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club and High Mowing Organic Seeds initiate 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)
September 21, 2009 U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White rules the USDA will have to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
January 21, 2010 CFS files request for an injunction against “further planting, cultivation, processing, or other use of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets or sugarbeet seeds, including the flowering of any sugarbeet seed crop, until the environmental impact statement has been completed and finally approved.”
March 16, 2010 Judge White denies preliminary injunction request, allowing continued planting, cultivating and processing of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets
August 13, 2010 With Judge White’s order harvest and processing of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets and sugarbeet seed crops planted before August 13, 2010 are not affected and may proceed without interference. The Court’s decision vacates the deregulation of Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets and returns the product to the USDA for appropriate action for future plantings.
September 1, 2010 USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announces next steps in response to the recent court decision on Genuity® Roundup Ready® sugarbeets.
September 9, 2010 CFS files lawsuit challenging USDA’s issuance of permits for limited, late season planting of stecklings.
November 4, 2010 Federal Register notice of availability of draft environmental assessment and 30 day public comment period.
November 30, 2010 U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White rules on Sept 9 lawsuit that permits violate NEPA and orders stecklings be destroyed.
December, 2010 District Court of Appeals stays order to destroy the stecklings and will consider on appeal the decision by Judge White overturning USDA’s issuance of the permits.

For additional information consult the Sugar Industry Biotech Council’s website.