By WES SANDER
A federal appeals court has blocked immediate destruction of the root crop for biotech sugar beets.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed an injunction granted on Nov. 30 by federal Judge Jeffrey White. White had ordered that beet stecklings, the root stock for eventual seed-producing plants, must be plowed under by Dec. 14.
The process was to have started late Tuesday with official notices from USDA to the seed companies. The stay freezes White's order until Dec. 23, giving USDA time to appeal White's decision. The 9th Circuit has set a briefing schedule that extends into February.
Stecklings are normally removed for transplanting in January and February.
In early September, USDA issued permits to four seed companies to plant the stecklings. The permits came three weeks after White revoked the federal deregulation of beet seeds containing Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready trait, pending a new environmental study.
The Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, the Sierra Club and High Mowing Organic Seeds sued to revoke the permits, saying they defied the deregulation ruling. The plaintiffs asked White for an injunction to uproot the stecklings before the case progressed.