SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has ordered the destruction of all genetically engineered sugar beets that seed companies planted in September.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco found that the U.S. Department of Agricultural improperly granted permission for the plantings without a detailed environmental review. White said his order will take effect Dec. 6 to give the companies time to appeal.
The companies couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit in September alleging the USDA’s action violated an earlier decision by White.
The environmental groups say Monday’s ruling affects beets planted in Oregon and Arizona. The sugar beets are genetically engineered with a bacteria gene to withstand sprayings of a popular weed killer.
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.