Monsanto GM Sugar Beets Can Stay In The Ground

In a partial win for global biotech seed maker Monsanto Co. , a U.S. Appeals Court has reversed a lower court’s order that called for the destruction of young genetically modified sugar beet plants, according to a ruling released Feb. 25.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found permits issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for juvenile biotech sugar beet “stecklings” should be given “full force and effect” and the plants need not be destroyed as a federal judge in San Francisco had ordered late last year.

Broader issues about the legality of broad commercialization of biotech sugar beets are still undecided as the USDA works to complete a court-ordered environmental impact assessment of the crop.

But the 9th Circuit held in its decision Friday the young seedlings that were planted in September do not pose an imminent risk. The stecklings are designed to produce seed that ultimately might be made available for root crop growers in the 2012 season, or for breeding purposes.

But the ultimate use will be tied to the outcome of the arguments over commercialization of the crop. In its ruling, the 9th Circuit said this issue was but a “thin slice of a larger litigation.”

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