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Appeals court saves bio-beet stecklings


By WES SANDER


Capital Press




A federal appeals court has reversed a judge's order to destroy this year's root stock for biotech sugar beet seeds.


In an opinion written by Judge Sidney Thomas, the court blocked a December order by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White to destroy the stock, known as stecklings, containing Monsanto's Roundup Ready genes.


Stecklings are normally replanted in late winter to make a seed crop. Roundup Ready seeds produce nearly all domestic sugar beets, which account for nearly half of the country's sugar supply.


White concluded a three-year lawsuit in August by revoking the beets' deregulated status until a more-thorough environmental study is complete. He left it to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service how to regulate the crop in the mean time.


Closely following the August decision, APHIS issued permits to cultivate stecklings. In the lawsuit that followed, plaintiffs argued the action violates the National Environmental Policy Act. In his ruling, White noted that he was inclined to agree with plaintiffs and granted their request for an injunction ordering the stecklings be destroyed.


The appeals court said that plaintiffs had not shown they would suffer irreparable injury from the cultivation of the stecklings.


"Biology, geography, field experience, and permit restrictions make irreparable injury unlikely," Thomas wrote.



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