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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Genetically Engineered Beets at the Center of Food Safety Debate

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 12:38 PM

click to enlarge Fact: Beet deregulation would be a boon to Schrute family farms
  • Fact: Beet deregulation would be a boon to Schrute family farms

Beets are not always the preferred vegetable on one's plate, but they are considered among the healthier foods we eat -- until they're not.

Food Safety groups are challenging beet growers who are attempting to plant genetically engineered sugar beets in the ground this spring. They claim the method has not received a full environmental review, which makes the health and safety of the beets questionable.

The GE sugar beets have long been at the center of debate over food safety. Last year, The Center for Food Safety sued the U.S.Department of Agriculture for allowing farmers to plant beets without proper environmental review, claiming that it's both risky and illegal. The Center won its battle in court and a judge forced hundreds of genetically engineered sugar beets to be pulled from the ground.

The USDA appealed and the 9th Circuit Court issued a stay of the injunction. On Feb. 4, the USDA signed off on permits allowing farmers to start planting sugar beets in the spring -- a direct violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, according to the complaint.

Now, the Center is challenging that move. It filed a new complaint in a San Francisco courtroom on Wednesday.

Food safety advocates claim the springtime planting could have devastating impacts on public health and the surrounding environment; it could contaminate other sugar beet crops, and closely related crops, including chard, and table beets.

The Center calls the USDA's approval of the beet planting  a "commercialization scheme."

"Roundup ready crops are more susceptible to disease," the Center said in its complaint.

And apparently, they are also susceptible to lawsuits.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert has been Online News Editor for SF Weekly since 2010. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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