By CRG Staff
In late September, the Federal District Court in San Francisco found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture fell short in assessing environmental impacts when it approved Monsanto's genetically modified sugar beets for commercialization. The Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice brought the case against USDA in January 2008, and although it was the Bush administration that deregulated the beets, the Obama administration decided in March not to change the rule.

The product in question is Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets, which are genetically modified for resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The first crop of Roundup Ready sugar beets was harvested last fall, but may now be facing a ban.

The court ruled that USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service failed to prepare an environmental impact statement and rebuked the agency's determination that introduction of GM beets would not affect farmers' choice not to grow GM varieties or consumers' choice not to eat genetically engineered foods. Judge Jeffrey White also found that USDA failed to assess the potential for cross-contamination. Beets are wind pollinated, and many of the Roundup Ready sugar beets were grown in a region of Oregon shared by related crops such as table beets and Swiss chard.

Although many producers adopted the GM beets when they became available, over 100 companies have signed a Non-GM Beet Sugar Registry, pledging not to use GM beet sugar in their products.  
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Created in 1999 by the Council for Responsible Genetics, the Safe Seed Pledge helps to connect non-GM seed sellers,distributors and traders to the growing market of concerned gardeners and agricultural consumers. The Pledge allows businesses and individuals to declare that they "do not knowingly buy, sell or trade genetically engineered seeds," thus assuring consumers of their commitment.
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Genetic Determinism
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