Court blocks destruction of sugar beet root stock
December 9, 2010
by Ron Sterk
KANSAS CITY — The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this week granted a temporary stay of a district judge’s order to destroy sugar beet root stock, or stecklings, currently being grown under U.S. Department of Agriculture permits.
“The beet sugar industry’s growers, processors, technology providers and seed producers are pleased that the Court of Appeals will now have a meaningful opportunity to consider relevant legal precedents and unrebutted evidence that the planting of these permitted steckling fields is authorized by law and would cause no harm,” the Sugar Industry Biotech Council said.
The U.S.D.A.’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued permits in September to allow planting of the stecklings, which were intended for research and breeding use and for seed and hybrid seed production for 2012 and beyond. Sources indicated the stay would provide adequate time to harvest the seedlings by late December.
Judge Jeffrey White in U.S. District Court for Northern California on Nov. 30 ordered the stecklings be “removed from the ground” as of Dec. 7. The order was part of an ongoing lawsuit filed in 2008 by the Center for Food Safety and others concerning the use of “Roundup Ready” sugar beet seeds from Monsanto Co. that were approved by the U.S.D.A. in 2005. An estimated 95% of the 2010 U.S. sugar beet crop acreage was planted to the bioengineered seed, which reduced production costs for growers and boosted yields compared with conventional seed.
“The stay, which extends through Dec. 23, 2010, provides additional time for the appellate court to consider briefings filed by the U.S.D.A. and interveners to overturn the preliminary injunction entered by the district court,” Monsanto said. “This practical decision by the appellate court indicates the interests of the seed companies and farmers will receive serious consideration.”
Monsanto said the district court ruling and the appellate court stay do not affect the 2010 Roundup Ready sugar beet seed crop that was planted prior to September and that it would have little impact on a pending decision on whether to allow farmers to plant Roundup Ready sugar beet seeds in 2011.