One for the Good Guys: Temporary Derailment of Monsanto Genetically Modified Beets

Every so often in our country, good overcomes evil.

… at least for a short time.

Recently, Monsanto was stopped from its illegal and dangerous planting of hundreds of acres of genetically modified (GM) beets. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ordered that the plants “be removed from the ground”. Much of the blame was placed on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for granting a permit without finishing the environmental impact study on what the effects of genetically modified beets would do to the environment and those who consume it.

The seeds in question was Roundup-Ready beets, which have been well documented to result in ever heavier spraying of the Roundup pesticide, glyphosate. This was the first crop of beet seed plants to be planted beyond the heavily-guarded Monsanto facilities.

The preliminary injunction (PDF file) was issued in response to a filing by the Center for Food Safety, the Organic Seed Alliance, the Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds, which challenged the USDA’s decision to issue permits for Monsanto to plant these crops. They claimed—and the judge agreed—that the National Environmental Policy Act, the Plant Protection Act, the 2008 Farm Bill, and the Administrative Procedure Act were all violated by the USDA’s permitting planting of the seeds.

In his conclusion, the judge wrote, “The legality of [the] defendants’ conduct does not even appear to be a close question.” So he ordered that the plants be torn out of the ground.

Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, stated

USDA thumbed its nose at the judicial system and the public by allowing this crop to be grown without any environmental review. Herbicide resistant crops just like this have been shown to result in more toxic chemicals in our soil and water. USDA has shown no regard for the environmental laws, and we’re pleased that Judge White ordered the appropriate response.

The potential harm of Roundup Ready crops is extensive. Farmers who plant these crops spray far more Roundup as a result, resulting in soil changes that promote root rot. The chemical can remain in the soil for up to 140 days, which means that it can be found in the plant, including parts used for food. Agricultural workers exposed to it are three times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. They experience more low birth weight babies, infertility, and miscarriages. Roundup is known to cause deformities in amphibians. It causes low sperm count in rabbits and cell death in human embryos.

Roundup Ready crops have already escaped into the wild and interbred with natural plants, resulting in Roundup-resistant plants that are spreading and creating an enormous weed problem.

Though sold as a safe weed killer, experience has shown that it’s highly toxic to humans and the environment. Roundup Ready crops are significantly exacerbating the problem.

While savoring this success, it’s important to understand that this is only a skirmish in a much bigger war. From the beginning, the USDA has been determined to allow these plants to be grown. The only reason the USDA even put on a show about doing an environmental impact study, as required by law, was lawsuits filed by Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety. Even in the face of a court order to do the study, the USDA went ahead and approved the GM beets before doing it.

Obviously, the USDA stands shoulder to shoulder with Monsanto, and has little interest in the public’s welfare or wishes. The US Supreme Court has indicated that they will likely approve partial deregulation of GM alfalfa. The USDA then drafted a decision that would allow them to approve Roundup Ready beets under so-called “strict permitting conditions”. Considering the USDA’s prior behavior on this issue, it seems unlikely that it would be anything other than granting free rein to anyone who is willing to pay whatever fees they charge.

The USDA is a puppet of Monsanto. The agency isn’t interested in following laws designed to protect the environment or the people.

Monsanto says that they plan to apply for an immediate stay of the order and appeal to the Court of Appeals. In the face of massive evidence to the contrary, Monsanto’s general counsel, David Snively, stated, “With due respect, we believe the court’s action overlooked the factual evidence presented that no harm would be caused by these plantings, and is plainly inconsistent with the established law as recently announced by the U.S. Supreme Court. We intend to seek an immediate stay of this ruling and appeal to the Court of Appeals.”

We can only hope that they aren’t successful.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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