USDA Allows GMO Sugar Beet Planting Even After a Landmark Court Decision Says No
In the past few months it has seemed, maybe if only a little bit, that the USDA had begun to see the danger in GMO seeds. Though in the end GMO alfalfa was approved, Tom Vilsack had this to say about it:
"We have an obligation to carefully consider...the potential of cross-fertilization to non-GE alfalfa from GE alfalfa—a significant concern for farmers who produce for non-GE markets at home and abroad."
And then in December, a federal judge ordered that 258 very important acres of genetically modified sugar beets be destroyed. Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the crops be destroyed because the risk of gene contamination in Oregon's Willamette Valley was so great. This was a step in the right direction no matter how small the step.
According to Reuters, the USDA has said it would take at least two years to develop new regulations in response to the overall ban issued last month by U.S. District Court Judge White.
But it seems there was little victory to enjoy because according to Minnesota Public Radio, the USDA most recently announced that farmers will be allowed to grow genetically modified sugar beets this season, "while it finishes work on a full environmental impact statement on the beets' effect on other crops and the environment." What? If you even think there may be a problem, why would you continue to make it worst?
Farmers can continue to grow beets if they get permits and agree to inspections. Farmers have been growing the Roundup Ready herbicide resistant sugar beets for the past five years and today 95 percent of sugar beets are the Roundup Ready variety.
Paige Tomaselli, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety, says the USDA decision is not supported by science:
"We think these measures will not protect farmers from contamination and the other side effects of Roundup Ready sugar beets. We will be filing a lawsuit immediately, addressing this partial deregulation."
And the CEO of Organic Valley had this to say in the wake of the decision:
"The USDA has been using its antiquated regulations as an excuse for not thoroughly reviewing GMOs. We must fight in court to bring accountability to the USDA, and we must also take this fight to rural American farms and the grocery aisles."
One step forward, two steps back or so it seems.