In a blow to the biotech industry and a victory for food integrity advocates, a U.S. District Judge banned sugar beet farmers from planting genetically-engineered sugar beet seeds next year. Genetically-engineered sugar beets currently make up 95 percent of the crop in the U.S. The judge ruled that due to cross-contamination, the genetically-engineered crops were infringing on farmers’ fundamental right to choose the crop of their choice.
George Kimbrell, senior staff attorney at The Center for Food Safety, lead the charge in suing the U.S. Deparment of Agriculture. The lawsuit argued that the agency did not fully gauge the potential impact of cross-pollination before it approved genetically-engineered sugar beets.
Cross-contamination of fields has been a huge issue in the genetic engineering debate, and many farmers have been sued upon the discovery of patented organisms in their fields. Documentaries such as Food Inc. and The Future of Food show-cased farmers who fought the battle and lost against huge multinational corporations such as Monsanto. In one case, a farmer was forced to destroy the entire supply of seed he spent his life cultivating and adapting to his region. In most instances, faced with a mountain of legal costs, farmers were forced to settle out of court and never utter another word. What was most shocking about these cases was it was clear the farmer had no intention of using the patented organism and it had arrived there without their knowledge. The cross-contamination of fields can happen with a gentle breeze and there is no way to control it.
With this case, along with Monsanto vs Schmeiser we are beginning to see the tables turn in what was looking to be an impossible battle for independent farmers seeking to preserve their way of life.
The approval of sugar beets is currently revoked until the USDA carries out an environment impact study. That could take a couple of years, so unless something new happens before next year, farmers will go back to planting conventional beets next spring.
You can be certain this is not the last you will hear about this, as Monsanto and the bio-tech giants are certainly crafting their appeal as we speak…