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USDA’s Illegal GM Sugar Beet Approval Revoked – Judge criticises USDA

Immediate release (17 Aug 2010)

Calls to Eve Mitchell on +44 (0)1381 610 740

GM Freeze welcomes the news that the US Federal Court in California revoked the USDA’s approval of Monsanto’s GM “Roundup Ready” sugar beet, prohibiting seed sales, plantings and crop sales until an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is carried out by the USDA. [1]

This judgment follows a court finding in September 2009 that the USDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by approving the crop for cultivation without preparing the legally required EIS. [2] Completing a full EIS is not expected before 2012.

The Judge noted in his new finding that the Agency’s “errors are not minor or insignificant”, saying he was concerned they were “not taking this process seriously”. Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director and co-council for plaintiffs Center for Food Safety, stated, “This is a major victory for farmers, consumers and the rule of law”. [2]

The GM sugar beet, resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is already planted on an estimated 1 million acres in 10 US states – some 95% of the country’s crop providing around half its sugar demand. The GM sugar beet failed to gain EU approval due to environmental concerns. [3]

The US Sugar Beet Council is reported to be looking for “temporary measures” to ease pressure on farmers. The Judge noted that since the 2009 finding the USDA “has already had more than sufficient time to take interim measures, but failed to act expediently.”

Eve Mitchell for GM Freeze said:

The failure of the US Government to act in accordance with the law has lead to the widespread cultivation of a potentially harmful crop. The USDA has put those farmers into a very difficult position. Thankfully for farmers in Europe this crop failed to gain EU approval.

This is not the first time the courts have had to step in to correct illegal approvals by regulators. Given the repeated assurance UK and EU regulators give that GM crops are safe and acceptable because they have been approved in the US, farmers and consumer need to know when those US approvals simply are not based on either science or the law.



[1] For more on this case, see GM in the Dock: US courts step in where regulators fail. Briefing I: Courts check the spread of GM alfalfa and beet here.

[2] A copy of the finding is available at

[3] See also

[4]  Following the 2000-2003 UK Farm Scale Evaluations, which included Roundup tolerant sugar beet and fodder beet, the UK government announced they would not approve the crop because of the indirect effect on farmland wildlife. The trials showed a reduction in numbers of weeds, which provide food for insects and birds.