GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A federal judge has overturned federal approval of a variety of sugar beets genetically engineered to resist a weed killer produced by agricultural giant Monsanto Co.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service violated environmental law by failing to take a "hard look" at whether the "Roundup Ready" sugar beets created by Monsanto would eventually share their genes with other crops.
Roundup Ready sugar beets were first grown on a commercial scale last summer, and already, more than 90 percent of all sugar beets grown in the country this year are Roundup Ready.
In December, six farmers asked to grow GMO sugar beets on open space land they lease from Boulder County. Over the summer, two different county advisory boards -- the Food and Agriculture Policy Council and the Parks and Open Space and Advisory Committee -- took up the issue, and came down on opposite sides.
In August, the county commissioners decided to delay making a decision on approving the sugar beets in favor of creating a comprehensive plan for how to manage genetically modified crops on county-owned land. GMO corn has been allowed on open space since 2003. This year, the modified corn was planted on 1,500 acres.
Federal District Judge White ordered the USDA on Monday to produce an environmental impact statement examining the issue. He also scheduled a meeting for Oct. 30 to discuss whether or notto restirct the planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets while the environmental impact statement is worked on. Camera Staff Writer Laura Snider contributed to this report