* Suit claims USDA violated court order
* Sugar beets account for over half U.S. sugar supply
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 9 Groups opposed to
genetically modified foods announced a lawsuit against the U.S.
Department of Agriculture on Thursday over the agency's recent
decision to allow limited plantings of altered sugar beets.
According to a copy of the complaint provided to Reuters by
the plaintiffs, the USDA's decision violates an August court
ruling that prohibited future plantings of genetically modified
sugar beets. Last week, the USDA announced it would issue
permits for seed producers to make plantings that would not be
allowed to flower.
But the plaintiffs, which include the Center for Food
Safety and the Sierra Club, argue in their lawsuit that these
plantings could still contaminate neighboring crops. The
complaint asks a judge to forbid the planting of any
genetically modified sugar beet plants.
A USDA spokesman declined to comment, as did a
representative of Monsanto Co (MON.N) , which is not a
defendant in the lawsuit but is cited as a developer of
genetically modified sugar beets.
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 Jeffrey White, who sits
in the Northern District of California in San Francisco. Sugar
beets account for over half the U.S. sugar supply, but
conventional beets remain widely available. [ID:nN01131347]
At issue are beets that are modified to resist a Monsanto
herbicide, Roundup, which Monsanto sees as a way to improve
crop yields and opponents see as driving evolution of dangerous
weeds that overcome the herbicide treatment.
(Reporting by Dan Levine;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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