Judge orders sugar beets pulled from soil
December 1, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO ”” A San Francisco federal judge has ordered the destruction of hundreds of acres of genetically engineered sugar beets after finding the USDA likely violated federal law by allowing the planting without analyzing the environmental impact.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction calling for the crops to be ripped up. But he delayed action until Dec. 6 to give the federal government and other defendants time to appeal.
White found the Center for Food Safety and the other groups who sued earlier this year are likely to win on the merits, and that they have made a strong showing that the environment is likely to suffer irreparable harm.
White took over the case in September after Chief Judge Vaughn Walker pulled it from Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong with a brief order citing her "unavailability." The case went to Walker and, when he disqualified himself, it went to White. It was one of two cases Walker pulled from Armstrong on Sept. 20. The other one was the unrelated matter of Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The only connection, seemingly, is that both involved time-sensitive issues that had not been quickly resolved.
White had presided over a previous sugar beet case, and in August banned the sale and planting of the so-called "Roundup Ready" beets after finding the USDA had not completed a required environmental impact study. Shortly thereafter, however, the government issued permits, and planting took place on Sept. 9 and 10.
The Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and others sued to stop it.
The groups say such crops lead to increased use of herbicides and has led to the spread of herbicide-resistant weeds on millions of acres and contamination of conventional and organic crops.
The judge says any harm to the defendants, including the seed companies, is "only of their own doing."
"Due to their preemptive conduct, the stecklings have been planted pursuant to the permits at issue and they have created a significant risk of environmental harm," White's order says.