by SUSAN MANN
Ontario’s sugar beet growers will plant their genetically engineered crop this spring despite the continued uncertainty surrounding a court case to rescind American government approval of the technology.
Genetically engineered sugar beets were approved by American and Canadian authorities for commercial planting and have been in use since 2008. But on Aug. 13, 2008 a California court rescinded the Untied States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval of Roundup Ready beets, created by Monsanto, until the department prepares an environmental impact statement. That’s slated to be done in 2012. Earlier this year the USDA ruled farmers could resume growing the sugar beets, which have been altered to withstand applications of the glyphosate herbicide, Roundup.
Glenn Jack, president of the Ontario Sugar Beet Growers’ Association, says the California case was moved to Washington and that’s where it should be heard. “Feelings in Washington are more supportive of genetically modified crops than what they are in California.”
Jack says Ontario growers still don’t have their seeds yet but they won’t need them for at least a week. Planting won’t begin any sooner than a week. “We’re going to have to have some awful nice weather to even get planting in a week.”
If approval of the technology is rescinded, Jack says there’s concern the USDA could order the entire crop that’s been planted to be destroyed. But he doesn’t think that will happen “because they’d run out of sugar in the states if they did that.”
In addition, there has been an encouraging sign from the court, which has already ruled farmers can plant the crop to produce seeds for 2012. Jack says “we’re expecting a favourable judgment.”
Asked if growers are worried, Jack says “we’re farmers. We have to worry about the weather, we have to worry about the markets. This is just another thing to occupy your mind.”
Jack says he doesn’t know when the court will release its decision but he hopes it’s by April 1.
This year Ontario growers will be planting 9,500 acres of sugar beets. BF