February 25, 2011 / 10:48 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-Monsanto wins in latest US sugar beet ruling

 * Sugar beet stecklings can stay in the ground
 * Ruling involves only "thin slice" of larger case
 * Likelihood of irreparable injury not found
 *
 (adds details of ruling, background, Monsanto comment)
 SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 25 (Reuters) - In a partial win for
global biotech seed maker Monsanto Co MON.N, a U.S. appeals
court reversed a lower court's order that called for the
destruction of young genetically modified sugar beet plants,
according to a ruling released on Friday.
 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 sugarbeets 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
Friday, the 9th Circuit said this issue was but a "thin slice
of a larger litigation."
 "Injunctive relief is not now needed to guard against any
present or imminent risk of likely irreparable harm." the court
found.
 "We're disappointed, but it's a preliminary decision," said
George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety,
a lead plaintiff in the case.
 "This litigation is ongoing. It isn't the final outcome of
the case," Kimbrell said.
 Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher called the court
decision "appropriate," and said the stecklings are being grown
under "stringent permit conditions."
 "They could not cause any alleged harms to the
environment," he said.
 Consumers and environmental groups have complained that the
USDA illegally approved biotech sugar beets without the
required environment impact statement.
 The groups say the biotech beets are harmful for the
environment and contaminate conventional beet supplies.
 U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White for the Northern District
of California  court agreed with the groups and vacated
government approval of the biotech beets developed by Monsanto,
which have been genetically altered to withstand Monsanto's
Roundup herbicide and make it easier for farmers to treat
fields for weeds.
 But USDA followed that ruling by issuing permits for
planting of the stecklings, and Judge White ordered in November
that the stecklings to be removed.
 The case in the 9th Circuit is Center for Food Safety et
al. v. Thomas Vilsack and Monsanto Company et al., 10-17719.
 (Writing and reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City and
additional reporting by Dan Levine, editing by Matthew Lewis
and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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