Judge Bars Genetically Modified Sugar Beets

A federal judge issued a ban Friday on any future planting of genetically modified sugar beets, potentially imperiling nearly all of the United States crop.

Judge Jeffrey S. White of United States District Court in San Francisco ruled that the Department of Agriculture had failed to conduct a required environmental impact statement before approving the genetically modified beets. Such beets now account for about 95 percent of the nation’s sugar beet production and nearly half of the sugar produced.

It is unclear how quickly the Department of Agriculture could complete the environmental study and reconsider approval of the genetically engineered beets. The environmental groups that brought the lawsuit argued that genetically modified beets would contaminate unmodified crops grown nearby by organic farmers and others who chose to plant conventional seeds.

Sugar beet growers sold the 2007-8 crop for about $1.335 billion, according to U.S.D.A. data.

Judge Bars Genetically Modified Sugar Beets – NYTimes.com

Farmers protest BT eggplant testing

BAGUIO CITY — Farmers groups have protested the field testing of genetically modified (GM) eggplants in the Philippines.

Known as the Philippine Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB) resistant eggplants (Bt brinjal) or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant, the Department of Agriculture has started multi-location field testing prior to commercialization. This is an eggplant that was embedded with Bacillus thuringiensis to make it resistant to the fruit and shoot borers.

The people of India where the Bt brinjal originated were successful in pressuring their government to issue a moratorium for the commercialization of Bt-eggplant. A French scientific study slammed the commercialization of Bt brinjal, heating up the controversy over the biotech crop’s safety. Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco) developed the genetically modified eggplant. Mahyco is the Indian partner of US biotech giant Monsanto.

A study team led by Caen University professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering has not only branded Bt brinjal “unsafe for human consumption” but also raised serious doubts on safety data presented by developers Mahyco to the government.

Skara Journal – After Years, Genetically Modified Potatoes Grow in Sweden – New York Times

SKARA, Sweden — Johan Bergstrom, a blond and boyish man of 31, who farms here with his father, reached into the dark, soft soil and extricated a tennis-ball-size potato, holding it gently so as not to snap off any of a half-dozen white shoots that were growing out of the potato’s eyes. He advised against tasting the potato, whose dulcet name Amflora belies its harsh flavor, a result of genetic jiggling that has made it almost pure starch.

The potato, the first genetically engineered organism to be allowed in the European Union in more than a decade, was planted on 16 acres of land on the fringes of this town in southwestern Sweden, after a quarter-century of bureaucratic wrangling.

Op-Ed Contributors – The Value of Genetically Engineered Foods – New York Times

Op-Ed Contributors

Genetically Engineered Distortions

By PAMELA C. RONALD and JAMES E. McWILLIAMS

A REPORT by the National Research Council last month gave ammunition to both sides in the debate over the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. More than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered, and the report details the “long and impressive list of benefits” that has come from these crops, including improved soil quality, reduced erosion and reduced insecticide use.

It also confirmed predictions that widespread cultivation of these crops would lead to the emergence of weeds resistant to a commonly used herbicide, glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup). Predictably, both sides have done what they do best when it comes to genetically engineered crops: they’ve argued over the findings.

Lost in the din is the potential role this technology could play in the poorest regions of the world — areas that will bear the brunt of climate change and the difficult growing conditions it will bring. Indeed, buried deep in the council’s report is an appeal to apply genetic engineering to a greater number of crops, and for a greater diversity of purposes.