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Judge Rejects Approval of Engineered Sugar Beets

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the can't-be-beet dept.

Biotech 427

countertrolling writes "A federal judge has ruled that the government failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of genetically engineered sugar beets before approving the crop for cultivation in the United States. The decision could lead to a ban on the planting of the beets, which have been widely adopted by farmers. Beets supply about half the nation's sugar, with the rest coming from sugar cane. The Agriculture Department did conduct an environmental assessment before approving the genetically engineered beets in 2005 for widespread planting. But the department concluded there would be no significant impact, so a fuller environmental impact statement was not needed. But Judge White said that the pollen from the genetically engineered crops might spread to non-engineered beets. He said that the 'potential elimination of farmer's choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer's choice to eat non-genetically engineered food' constituted a significant effect on the environment that necessitated an environmental impact statement. There's still hope, isn't there? That we can at least get this stuff labeled properly?"

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Those Judges! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516747)

They're always after my frosted Lucky Charms!

Forget the Beets! (4, Interesting)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516765)

Re:Forget the Beets! (-1, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516893)

OMG, some company wants to make money by making farming more efficient , eco friendly, and create safer foods.

Run for the hills.

You do knwo that is the only complaint against them, right. "They make money, therefore there bad" is a weak ass argument.

Re:Forget the Beets! (4, Informative)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517065)

Well, sort of. I myself think all of the anti-GMO crap is BS fear mongering. Having said that, Monsanto is run by a bunch of assholes. They created the terminator corn, that sought to protect their " intelectuall property" by creating corn that wasn't fertile. So you couldn't grow corn, harvest it and then plant the seeds for another crop. ( Note they did remove it from the market place over widespread criticism. )

From Monsanto's perspective, growing corn from seed that was grown from their seed is theft. You do not have the "right" to plant that. You must buy new seed from Monsanto.

Re:Forget the Beets! (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517289)

Yes, but at one time "terminator" genes were considered to be a safety feature because if the GMO cropturned out to be undesirable it wouldn't propagate and spread itself throughout the ecology.

It's pretty unfair to criticize something that started out a safety feature and morphed into something that turned into a way of enforcing a license agreement.

Re:Forget the Beets! (5, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517149)

Actually, the main complaint against Monsanto is that they sue you if you save the seeds from your GM crops, they sue you if you operate a seed-preservation business (whether it's for GM crops or not), and they sue you if seeds from GM crops make their way into your fields, as plants often do naturally.

In short, they're patent-wielding litigious bastards. If their position wasn't opposite that of environmentalist, Slashdot readers would be on the anti-Monsanto bandwagon like white on rice.

Secondary complaints are that their safety and environmental impact studies are suspect. These studies are fairly important when you're performing drastic biological change in a small number of generations. (Non-GM plant engineers do the same sorts of studies, but when the term "GM" is added, suddenly it's unfair government regulation.) They're also creating a significant risk of destroying genetic diversity, made worse by the fact that they own patents controlling the genotypes that are hedging out the others. Crop genetic diversity isn't just important in some hippie "plant multiculturalism" sense -- it's important if you plan on your children being able to eat in the future.

Almost (2, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517191)

OMG, some company wants to make money by making farming more efficient , eco friendly, and create safer foods.

You can scratch that "safer foods" part - no evidence to support that. In fact, one might try to argue that roundup-ready foods are full of pesticides which is another level altogether from the food modification itself. The other thing is that they are known to go after people who had their crops unintentionally cross pollinated with their proprietary crops.

Their goal is to make money by taxing food, while possibly having a detrimental effect on food safety.

Re:Forget the Beets! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517291)

By eco friendly do you mean drenching the fields in pesticides because the corn won't die from it, but everything else will?

All it takes to mess up human DNA is one extra or one less chromosome somewhere. We've only recently sequenced the human genome. Do you really think that the scientists that are crossing fish with tomatoes know what they are doing? We still don't know what over half of the stuff in DNA does. Who knows what genes they could have switched on or off. A recent study shows that wind currents can carry pollen incredibly far. I'm not saying that all GMOs are bad. But for heaven's sake! Test the stuff EXTENSIVELY before you try to contaminate a species.

Re:Forget the Beets! (1)

ATL_gadget_grrl (1122351) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517345)

You do knwo that is the only complaint against them, right. "They make money, therefore there bad" is a weak ass argument.

This tapdances around the very hot "is capitalism evil?" meme of the week. If we're gonna go there, then truly, this isn't about making any farming more efficient, eco friendly, and safer. This is about the (extremely powerful) sugar lobby trying to dig their claws in more deeply to the American food network and get us even more hooked on the stuff. Seriously, why do we NEED sugar in stuff like chili seasoning or sloppy joes????? Kudos to the judge for saying we need to take a step back and actually EVALUATE what's going on here.

Re:Forget the Beets! (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517433)

How simplistic and naive. Surely, you don't consider that an argument?

My biggest problem with engineered bio-products, is that they become monocultures. A diverse gene pool, whether we are talking about corn, potatoes, or sugar beets, is protection against disease and predation. We have wiped out strains of vegetables. Many potatoes have become nothing more than a curiosity in some old timer's garden. Ditto with corn. I'm not real familiar with sugar beets - don't have any idea how many strains there are, or were. But, if we are only growing ONE strain on 90% of the farms that raise sugar beets, we are setting ourselves up for real problems. Some blight that affects that one particular strain can wipe out production for one year, and possibly prevent crops for several years.

Monoculture is deadly. Think of it as inbreeding.

Re:Forget the Beets! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517481)

Gosh, here I thought most people on /. were capitalist and supported free market economics? I didn't know the communists had taken over!

If I'm willing to pay a premium for non-GMO crops, the market should be willing to respond, right? Is this the new form of Fox News Socialism scare? Consumers must give up choice in food because obviously proven more efficient, eco friendly and safer foods are available.

Re:Forget the Beets! (5, Interesting)

shaka (13165) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517513)

There are a number of complaints against Monsanto, such as dumping of PCBs, in Wales, encouraging residents in Alabama to use known PCB-contaminated soil as topsoil, creating and marketing toxicins such as PCBs and DDT knowing they were toxic.

Right now, though, the greatest danger with this company is that they are pursuing control of world food. They already control the majority of all soybeans and corn in the US.

I guess that you're American, though, in which case your country benefits economically since the rest of the world has to pay you for IP, similar to the situation with Microsoft, BSA, RIAA, and MPAA, companies and organizations your government will do anything to benefit since your trade depends on IP.

Don't be surprised if people in the rest of the world doesn't buy the propaganda though. And it doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the end product, it's the business methods that I object to.

Re:Forget the Beets! (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517559)

OMG, some company wants to make money by making farming more efficient , eco friendly, and create safer foods.

Run for the hills.

You do knwo that is the only complaint against them, right. "They make money, therefore there bad" is a weak ass argument.

More like "they would like to control the food supply, in much the same way that Microsoft now controls the desktop operating system industry". Some of us find that prospect a disturbing one, and a hard look at Monsanto's business tactics and their allergy to full disclosure does not comfort us one bit. Honestly, I don't know where you get this idea from that the only reason why someone would dislike a company is that they are successful at making money. I am sorry but it sounds like a sound bite from a talk radio show host, not a serious attempt at reasoning. How they go about making that money and how their methods might negatively affect others, either directly or by setting undesirable precedents, is the issue here.

If you want a starting point that you can plug into Google while you disabuse yourself of any concept of this company's benevolence, I have three words for you: bovine growth hormone. This would be very much like telling someone to learn about Microsoft and how they do business by studying their interactions with the ISO concerning OOXML, except in Monsanto's case the controversy was not about a standards body but instead, the major media.

If you're more subtle you could also ask yourself why a company with "more efficient, eco friendly, and ... safer foods" would not be eager to label them as such and in fact has fought tooth and nail to prevent any sort of product labels that would identify the fruits of their labors. The only conclusion that makes sense is that they know some people don't want GMO foods and the like and believe that their desire for additional sales volume overrides the average person's right to know what they are buying (or to not purchase something they don't want). The problem with that is that once people no longer know what they are buying, all free-market concepts of "what the market wants" go out the window and you can accurately say that at least some of their business is built on deception.If anyone stands up and suggests that maybe this isn't the best way to do things and that maybe we should question the motives of people who do things this way, would you really suggest that the company's profitability is the only possible reason for doing so? Could you do that with a straight face?

I was disappointed (2, Funny)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516773)

that the title didn't say "Judge delivers beet down on the Gov't"

Re:I was disappointed (1, Offtopic)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517251)

I was disappointed this judge wasn't saying a few things in some of the Mosanto lawsuits (you know, plant a field of genetically modified corn of some sort, sue the farmer next door for patent infringement when his stuff gets pollinated from it, win...)

Re:I was disappointed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517267)

That would be because any seasoned would know the judge is reaching for publicity. His concerns have no scientific backing. It's almost like he just feels there is a problem so he willy nilly throws those feelings into the real world. It would be acceptable for a botanist to have brought the concerns forward to the judge, but apparently some layman judge type just wants to make noise. I can almost guarantee this case will change nothing and do nothing but waste the time of quite a few attorneys.

Most food we eat is genetically modified (3, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516793)

It was just modified by farmers over a longer period of time using human (i.e. unnatural selection) to bring out certain traits.

The only difference is in the people doing the modification and the techniques used.

Just like dogs have been genetically modified to produce everything from chihuahuas to great danes.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (2, Interesting)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516845)

"The only difference is in the people doing the modification and the techniques used."

And the results being things that haven't evolved. And the fact that the radical changes that can happen with genetic engineering might not be best thing if they got into the wild.

It's not the same, really.

Do we really have the confidence in our understanding of genetic mechanisms to rule out harmful side-effects?

And that's not even to mention stuff like the Terminator gene, the GM equivalent of server-based DRM. If a crop containing that cross pollinates another crop that doesn't then you may have killed the livelihood of the farmer next door.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (4, Insightful)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516949)

And the results being things that haven't evolved

Definition of evolution: change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.

Eg Delta, change, any change good or bad. You people need to get off of the soundbite train and get a grasp on what evolution is.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (4, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517033)

Direct insertion of DNA sequences from other species is different to breeding and selection.

End of story.

By all means get pissy about the definition of evolution, you're just trying to play semantics that have nothing at all to do with the argument at hand.

And I wish you people would stop "you people"'ing me. For god's sake, it's as if you people are incapable of addressing individuals.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (4, Insightful)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517259)

It's still not that unusual. Viruses do that very thing all the time. It'd take a really long time to do it the sexual way, but it's nothing that can't be done with enough patience. GM is just really really fast breeding. Get over it.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517327)

Absolutely. Or, if you're really concerned, just eat irradiated food. I and my intestines wish all my food was irradiated.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516983)

this has happened for thousands of years, its the reason why some parts of the "fertile crescent" aren't so fertile anymore.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (4, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517169)

Do we really have the confidence in our understanding of genetic mechanisms to rule out harmful side-effects?

Turn that question around: What are the side effects of non-GMO crops? How do you know that this mushroom is safe to eat, and not that one? It's very simple: people tried them, and they discovered that this particular type made them sick and die. At least GMOs get tested for this in a lab before they're released into the environment.

Keep in mind that with GMO crops you're taking two things: corn and chrysanthemum, for example, and pasting them together to create corn with a borer-resistant root. It's not like that mix is going to result in corn that grows gills and glows in the dark. So you test the corn that comes out, and if there's no permethrin in the kernels, what difference does it make to you in the food chain? None.

The radical greens who try to scare people about GMOs play upon people's gullibility. They want us to not understand that we animals don't merge with the DNA of the foods we eat. Our stomach acids break the cells down, and our bodies collect and use only the raw nutrition components. If it didn't work this way, eating a cow could give you hooves, or eating corn might make a tassel grow out of your head. For those bits of food where the digestion process opens the cell walls, the same digestion process breaks up the DNA into amino acids. The undigestible bits come out the other end.

I do agree that the Terminator gene is as evil as DRM, but from a humanity/political point of view, not from a scientific view.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (4, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517511)

Do we really have the confidence in our understanding of genetic mechanisms to rule out harmful side-effects?

Turn that question around: What are the side effects of non-GMO crops?

Almost all of this debate misses the fundamental point of introducing alien species (and that's what GMO crops are... we've just refined the granularity of introduction to genetic fragments rather than a whole creature). Toads would not have been a problem in Australia or pigs in Hawaii, had they evolved there, naturally. They problem is that it takes centuries for an ecosystem to adapt to even the smallest change in an existing species and millennia or much longer to adapt to major changes.

In short, it's not the evolution of the crops that's in question, but of the environment around them and how it will respond.

We're currently at the "what could possibly go wrong" stage, and companies like Mosanto correctly point out that they'll go out of business if they need to wait for 100 years to see what the results of their tinkering might be, but are we protecting a company at the cost of our future health and well being? We literally have no idea.

You can't inherit sterility (1)

MaizeMan (1076255) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517499)

And that's not even to mention stuff like the Terminator gene, the GM equivalent of server-based DRM. If a crop containing that cross pollinates another crop that doesn't then you may have killed the livelihood of the farmer next door.

...and then the poor farmer's crops can't produce fertile seed, just like its parents. Wait, what? If farmer A's crop is sterile, how can it mate with farmer B's crop and produce more sterile in his field the next year? Seriously, that'd be like me saying "yeah, I'm completely sterile, I inherited it from my Dad."

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516851)

Just like dogs have been genetically modified to produce everything from chihuahuas to great danes.

Indeed, take a look at this scientific video of a freak accident [todaysbigthing.com] that somehow avoided natural selection. At one point in that beast's ancestry it was a magnificent wolf or even dingo.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

rhavenn (97211) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516869)

Yes, but I've never seen a sugar beet mate with a frog before, for example. Some of these genetic modifications are not just crossing species or even phyla boundaries, but whole kingdom's of animal / plant classification.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516973)

most of the genetic code across all living things is exactly the same

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (3, Informative)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516999)

There have been reported cases of Horizontal gene transfers caused by viruses and bacteria in Nature.

Some genes are thought to be transferred across plant/fungi/animal boundaries by certain pathogens.

Granted it takes a log time for such gene transfers to contribute to useful attributes for the target organism.

But this discovery of Naturally occurring Horizontal gene transfer is causing some issues in Molecular evolutionary genetics.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517115)

Frog: Hey there Sugar beet, show me some sugar!

Sugar beet: ...

Frog: Bow chicka wow wow!

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (2, Funny)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517533)

The Swedish porn I look at has plenty of mating between cucumbers and humans.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1, Funny)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516875)

Um, no. God created all the plants and animals, including dogs, including chihuahuas and great danes.

Genetic engineering, on the other hand, is an unnatural aberration. It appears to be some sort of witchcraft, and it should be banned. Also, any books on the subject should be burned.

Anything that has been genetically engineered is bad, and will probably turn people into zombies somehow.

-Average retarded US citizen.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517011)

I know you are being humorous but in my experience the people against genetic engineering aren't the Christians, but rather the secular humanists and the naturalists. But good job perpetuating stereotypes. I never hear enough misinformation from non-Christians.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

thebheffect (1409105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517503)

If that's the case you must not be around many Christians. Or you aren't listening to them, which is probably a smart move on your part.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517325)

Since public knowledge and resistance to GMO's if far more prevalent in European countries, pray tell what are their reasons? Surely not superstition and illogical thinking - only Amercians are subject to that.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516895)

Hey - If the world didn't have chihuahuas, what would we feed our great danes?

Joke aside, even we're genetically modified these days. The human race is getting taller pretty quickly. Not to mention that boobs and wieners are getting bigger just because of latent biological drives that happen to encourage breeding behavior. But if it happens in a lab, it's evil. If it happens in a bedroom, it's natural. And if it happens in your garden, even the smelly hippies like it (OK - they like the bedroom stuff too, they're just less picky).

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (3, Informative)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516937)

Except that the latest crops are now patented. If someone's crops get pollinated with the patented strain, even unintentionally just by wind from a neighboring field, then he can be sued by the inventor and subjected to license fees.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517101)

Didn't you know that companies are currently patenting parts of the human genome/DNA that they don't even know what it does...
So yeah, patent laws are insane.
When it comes to lifeforms, I preferred it when the rule was that you copyright creatures you create, and you patent the process it was done by.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517207)

Didn't you know that companies are currently patenting parts of the human genome/DNA that they don't even know what it does

No they are not.

http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54911/ [the-scientist.com]

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517123)

As far as I can tell that is actually a myth. I have not been able to find any where a farmer had to pay license fees due to wind spread pollen.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517547)

But there are plenty of cases of farmers having to pay license fees for "stealing" monsanto GM seeds and being unable to prove that they're innocent despite the distinct possibility of cross-pollination.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (0, Troll)

blackchiney (556583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517017)

If you mean cultivated to be tasty and edible, then yes it took a long, long time to get there. But the GM stuff available now is tasteless and unappetizing. If your tomato leaves you thirsty after the first bite, the it's not a juicy tomato. If your strawberries are red on the outside and white and tasteless on the inside, then you've run into the magnificence of GM foods. Unfortunately, GM foods weren't designed to taste better, but to last longer. If you have the opportunity to buy at a farmers market than you won't have so much GM foods. But at Walmart, that tomato has been carried halfway around the planet, kept in warehouses, by the time it gets to the store it's barely edible, but as long as it looks fresh for most shoppers that's all that matters. As for pets, they've been inbred for so long that most purebreeds are thoroughly retarded.

Um No. Those don't exist (4, Informative)

MaizeMan (1076255) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517401)

Unless you happened to live in California for a few years in the 1990s you've never tasted a genetically modified tomato (and I understood they sold quite well during that time).

Unless you were at one point a grad student who engineered them yourself (or worked in a lab with someone who did) you've never tasted a GM strawberry.

If I'm wrong please point me toward where I can buy the GM seed for either of those.

For the record the only GM fruit or vegetable anyone will probably encounter right now would be a papaya from Hawaii engineered to resist papaya ring spot virus, as GM papayas were introduced after ring spot virus decimated the conventional papayas.

Re:Most food we eat is genetically modified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517133)

It's not just a matter of techniques. Slow modification produce slow changes, species that have been proved to be harmless over hundreds of years. If something goes wrong it's easier to go back to the other option. Radical changes may produce rapid unexpected consequences. Beside all the copyright issues with genetic seeds.

Can you produce pesticides by selection? (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517425)

See, most GM crops aren't just selected to be bigger or hardier. Most of it actually has genes copied from various bacteria (e.g., Bacillus Thuringiensis) to produce its own pesticides, or to make it more resistant to higher levels of herbicides and/or pesticides.

Yes, they should be harmless to humans (though in a couple of cases they did also copy the gene for a strong allergen.) That's not what I'm talking about.

But if you're going to put the equals sign between that and human selection, I'm affraid I'll have to ask for evidence of even a single crop which started producing pesticides as a result of just selection by humans. I'm genuinely curious.

Of course you can get it labeled (1, Flamebait)

Rix (54095) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516797)

There are lots of organizations that will cater to your backward luddism and sell you food full of warts and disease, as nature intended.

You just have to pay for it, you cheap asshole.

Re:Of course you can get it labeled (4, Insightful)

badasscat (563442) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517049)

This is getting to be less and less true, regardless of how "cheap" you are, and that's the point.

There was an article in Wired a while back that dealt with genetically engineered beef, going in depth into the whole process by which it's created, interviewing the farmers and other people along every step of the chain. The upshot was that it's basically impossible *not* to buy genetically engineered beef these days, because there are so many people out there who don't follow what few rules there are, there's so little enforcement and such big financial incentives for breaking the rules. (Nobody wants to buy cattle with stringy beef when it's next to a bunch of other cattle that are plumped up artificially.)

And the thing you have to remember is that once you've contaminated the chain, it's impossible to uncontaminate it. It's like trying to remove paint thinner from a pitcher full of drinking water. Once it's in there, it's almost impossible to separate it again. If you have one genetically modified bull producing offspring with non-modified cattle, all of those offspring will then be genetically modified, and nobody knows about it. They will then have their own offspring, and REALLY quickly you will have an entire system full of contaminated beef.

All anybody wants is the choice to eat this stuff or not. And that's being taken away with the lack of rules, the lack of oversight and the lack of labeling. Nobody is saying this stuff shouldn't even be on the market, we're just saying it needs to be labeled, and separated from the natural stuff.

Re:Of course you can get it labeled (4, Insightful)

locallyunscene (1000523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517071)

That's fine, the problem which the judge is rightly pointing out is when pollen from GE self terminating sugarbeet plants pollinates a "warty disease filled" heirloom crop of sugar beets, thereby destroying that farmers heirloom strain while he's getting sued by Monsanto for having a 95% match rate in his crops DNA with the patented GE crop.

No (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517415)

If you're really afraid of GM crops stealing your soul, you can grow them in sealed hydroponic gardens.

The Monsanto suit involved a farmer who specifically cultivated Roundup-resistant rapeseed from a cross pollinated field. It wasn't just natural genetic drift.

Re:Of course you can get it labeled (0, Troll)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517469)

Baloney. That small-time punk farmer has no more right to shake down a respectable corporation like Monsanto by interfering with Monsanto's ability to maximize profits and be the sole source of food than a two-bit local clothing store has the right to steal customers from an upstanding corporation like Walmart.

Re:Of course you can get it labeled (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517107)

There are lots of organizations that will cater to your backward luddism and sell you food full of warts and disease, as nature intended.

I'd prefer that companies not be permitted to sue individual farmers for growing their GMOs just because the pollen spread to someone else's farm by accident.

While any documentary these days should probably be taken with many grains of sugar beets crystals, here is a decent start for why you should not support allowing companies who hoard GMOs to sue farmers: http://www.hulu.com/watch/67878/the-future-of-food [hulu.com]

BTW, just so you know, I eat nearly 100% organic everything and what's not organic is 99% from local farmers who do not use pesticides, herbicides, or GMOs. I ask about my food and I ensure that what I am putting in my family's bodies is the way it should be--natural. That and I am ensuring that the farmer who lives 12 miles down from my house can continue to afford to live there, on his fairly large piece of property for the area, instead of lining the pockets of Big Farm.

They can't (3, Informative)

Rix (54095) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517509)

The case you're thinking of involved a farmer who specifically gathered cross pollinated rapeseed and selectively bred them for the Monsanto gene. He wasn't sued for genetic drift.

Oh, and linking to hulu is a real jerk move. They block non-Americans.

Re:Of course you can get it labeled (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517195)

Unless, of course, the farm that sells your warty diseased fruit happens to be downwind of a farm that makes pristine genetically-engineered food, in which case you get a free and unknowing upgrade to the superior product. Then the choice is gone because the GM crop has already wiped out the original seedstock of the non-GM crop or altered it significantly.

The issue is not that GM farms shouldn't have the right to sell GM foods. They should. The foods are arguably superior in many ways, and generally get better yields, resulting in more profit for the farmer and more foodcrop available for a hungry world. The vast majority of people are OK with GM foods. I chow down on them all the time and it has nothing to do with this facial twitch I've developed (grin).

The issue is that a GM farmer who introduces a new crop should also be obligated to take precautions to make sure they don't alter the crops of those farmers who DO NOT want to implement GM foods. If you live downwind of a GM farm and grow a similar crop, there's a darned good chance pollen will change the nature of your crop to something less desirable to you.

This is no more and no less than a pollution issue (cross-pollination being the pollution). If you want to grow GM, by all means, go for it. But don't plant it just on the other side of an open fence from someone who doesn't and is growing a similar crop. That's what the FDA rules are designed for - to assure that those who want the choice between GM and non-GM foods will continue to have that choice.

GM foods tend to be hardier, and in a non-GM farm would be basically an impossible-to-eradicate "invasive species". Once the invasion reached a certain point, the farmer would have no choice but to go GM, and eventually we'd run out of non-GM farms because the seedstock has all been contaminated.

Re:Of course you can get it labeled (2, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517507)

The biggest black market in the United States is the sale of unpasteurized milk. It just shows you how far people will go to do stupid things because they think every advancement made by man is bad.

Well good! (5, Insightful)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516801)

Now I'm not all that fussy about not eating bio-engineered food. But I think that biodiversity is a Good Thing, and that it's probably a good idea to preserve some uncontaminated stock (the old adage of "work on a backup" applies doubly when you're dealing with your food supply).
Add to that the way a lot of the bioengineering agritech firms love to assert copyright over their "intellectual property" (plant genetic material), whether or not the farmer actually wanted it or if it was undesirable cross-pollination, and I say good for Judge White.

Re:Well good! (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516919)

What they really need is to make the biotech patents on crops only applicable for 5-10 years, that way it drives the bio-tech companies to come up with new stuff and we are not permanently patenting life.

I understand the need for them to 'protect their research investment" but it should definitely expire. We also need to make the law so it can't be abused like Disney abuses the copyright laws on nearly 100 year old cartoons.

10-15 year max patent on the genes while being "researched or tested". Which converts to 5-10 year max when it goes public.
5-10 year patent after the item first becomes available for public sale sounds like a good idea.

Then the gene sequences must then be made public as in free and able to be posted on wiki-gene-pedia or whatever exists then.

Think of it as "source code with an expiring copyright".

Re:Well good! (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517037)

Agreed, but this is simply a matter of restraining the rights of the IP holder to not include inadvertent practice due to accidental dispersal of the invention. It has nothing to due with whether or not there is a negative environmental impact.

Re:Well good! (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517155)

The environmental impact is the genetic contamination that results from inadvertent dispersal. The lawsuit-happiness of agribusinesses is only an additional threat, not the main one (which is that it becomes harder to find or grow unadulterated sugar beets, should the need arise).

Re:Well good! (0, Troll)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517337)

Yes, but nobody has ever shown that there is any negative effect from spreading the pollen. It is pure poppycock.

Re:Well good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517485)

Why do you care? (1, Troll)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516831)

I know the "greens" love to worry about GMOs but what is your particular fear? Are you afraid the proteins or amino acids will make you sick? Left-over anti-pest traces? Or are you falling into the marketing trap of "ooh, scary Frankenfoods!" please be sure to think critically for yourself.

Re:Why do you care? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516917)

Seriously. This shit has been debunked for years. We could feed the fucking world if people would stop believing the "organic" "green earth" bullshit.

Re:Why do you care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517029)

Because we don't truly understand the side effects of GM methods, but other organisms can...

see http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Safety/biotech/050920090819_chickens_not_fooled_by_gm_crops.html

Re:Why do you care? (2, Insightful)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517031)

What I worry about is Big-Ag owning these GMOs and cornering the market. When that happens and a disease strikes the GMO that's it - the end of food. It is putting too many eggs in the same basket. Then there is the whole thing where farmers only end up "licensing" the seed for the one year requiring them renew their license every year - again, of Big-Ag provided seed. Mono-culture agriculture is too stressful. I'm not particularly "green" but this only makes common sense.

Re:Why do you care? (1)

jagsta (1607283) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517039)

I think the thing that concerns me about GM food, is that we are inserting genes from completely different phyla in some cases, into crops which will be grown in the wild. These GMed plants have not evolved these characteristics, they've just been inserted into their genome. I am concerned that the effects of this may not be clearly understood, when these crops are out there, competing with other plants, pollinating non GMed versions of these crops, or even cross-pollinating other species.

I can and do appreciate the benefits of GM, from a 'green' perspective there are a number of points in favour of GM, for example:

  - the ability to improve disease resistance, allowing lower volumes of pesticides to be used to produce a given quantity of a crop.
  - the ability to reduce water loss, or reduce the overall volume of water to produce a given quantity of a crop.
  - the ability to introduce nitrogen fixing to non-nitrogen fixing crops, requiring less usage of fossil fuel derived fertiliser.

Re:Why do you care? (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517119)

as an environmentally conscious person i headdesk when other self-described environmentally conscious people flip about genetically modified crops.

yes there are some valid concerns about it outcompeting wild populations, etc. and it is a good idea to preserve older generations of the crops in the world seed vaults. but this "OMG GMO! EVIL! BAD! TURN YOUR SKIN PURPLE WITH PINK POLKA DOTS" stuff is just stupid.

I mean.. sometimes genetic modification is the only viable option.. these same people if presented with pictures of the vast tracts of forest killed by the Pine Beetle would probably scream "YES!" if they were asked "Should we replace these stands of forest with trees of the same species but given the ability to resist the pine beetle?".

The environmentalists have their idiots like any other group - like the people who simultaneously complain about carbon emissions and nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is a LOT less harmful to the environment [and a lot easier to safely contain] and would offset many magnitudes more carbon.. but to these people nooo ANY negative byproducts that must be dealt with are too much.*

* don't get me wrong - solar, wind, hydro > nuclear .. but nuclear is entire orders of magnitude > fossil fuels.

Re:Why do you care? (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517567)

solar, wind and hydro each have drawbacks that nuclear doesn't. Solar, it depends on where you are, and doesn't work at night. Wind, very unpredicatable generation. It's good as a supplement, but not a main source. Hydro... that only works in certain areas with big enough rivers, and even that isn't terribly environmentally friendly [internationalrivers.org] . Nuclear has none of those drawbacks.

Re:Why do you care? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517223)

I know the "greens" love to worry about GMOs but what is your particular fear? Are you afraid the proteins or amino acids will make you sick? Left-over anti-pest traces? Or are you falling into the marketing trap of "ooh, scary Frankenfoods!" please be sure to think critically for yourself.

"Thinking critically" meaning assuming that there's no way to inadvertently bioengineer food to cause health problems? And if you think "proteins" can't make you sick, I dare you to go get bitten by a venomous snake and see how you feel. Most of the genetic modifications made to GMOs are perfectly safe, anyway, but only the scientifically illiterate think that there's no chance of any changes ever causing damage.

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your post was in response to some slashdot post and not the main article by the way, considering the main article has absolutely nothing to do with the safety of GMOs and everything to do with environmental impact.

Re:Why do you care? (4, Informative)

plastick (1607981) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517287)

Call me a "green" if you wish but lab results on some of the genetically modified food have shown stomach cancer in lab rats. You think this federal judge ruled against the crop without any reason at all?

If you want a ton of specifics (just too many to list here) about GM food and it's health effects, there's a good documentary (which also covers how farmers get screwed) call "The Future of Food" located at TheFutureOfFood.com.

Re:Why do you care? (1)

IKillYou (444994) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517495)

This judgement has nothing to do with food safety. It addresses the threat of unwanted cross-pollination by a patented food crop. Monsanto has no problem with suing farmers who are the victims of unwanted cross-pollination or seed drift.

Google Monsanto for a little background on the topic.

oh noes genetically engineer food!!1!! (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516835)

I mean, who the hell wants better bigger tastier and healthier crops?

Organic foods - throwing farming back to the 16th century!

The three pillars of organic farming:

diseases, cross contamination and starvation.

Re:oh noes genetically engineer food!!1!! (3, Informative)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516885)

I believe you are confusing organic, food grown without pesticides http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food [wikipedia.org] , with genetically un-modified foods.

Re:oh noes genetically engineer food!!1!! (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517153)

Maybe he is, but then again, they tend to be the same people, at least where I live.

They are also afraid that engineered genes will somehow jump to humans if they eat the 'frankenfoods'... Idiots!

Re:oh noes genetically engineer food!!1!! (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517385)

I believe you are confusing organic, food grown without pesticides http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food [wikipedia.org] , with genetically un-modified foods.

I suggest you read your own link. "Organic" labelling does not just mean "without pesticides", it also usually includes "not genetically modified".

Re:oh noes genetically engineer food!!1!! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517173)

Fixed it for you:

The many more than three pillars of ""growth at any cost "corporate farming:

  • Pesticides laden food
  • depleted soils
  • damaged watersheds
  • phytohormones
  • do I have to go on?

Consumer Choice is an Environmental Effect? (1)

MassiveForces (991813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516863)

In reality, all crops are genetically engineered. The difference is the methods involved, where people artificially interfere with breeding and natural selection by means of selecting crops themselves or directly cut and paste genes to that effect. Genetic engineering has the potential to be a second green revolution, but the current regulatory climate and stigma reduce its development to multinationals with weak competition, that doesn't necessarily produce the best results. The real environmental effects are zero versus a conventional crop in any case - any farmed crop is completely unnatural and environmentally disruptive.

Re:Consumer Choice is an Environmental Effect? (2, Insightful)

toiletsalmon (309546) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517265)

"The difference is the methods involved, where people artificially interfere with breeding and natural selection by means of selecting crops themselves or directly cut and paste genes to that effect."

And that's the whole point. You want to be logical, OK. Let's be logical and scientific about it:

History has shown me time and again that giant multinational corporations are more concerned with doing things the PROFITABLE way, which is not necessarily, the safest/smartest/cleanest/healthiest way. So WHY should I believe that ADM, etc. won't do something "bad" to my food, cover it up, and lie about it?

It's not about being a luddite, it's about knowing, from experience, that the CEO of the company in charge of "Engineering the Future of Our Food!" is probably an asshole who doesn't care what impact he has on other people or the environment.

Additionally, I don't know about you, but I gave up on the notion of the "noble researcher/scientist a long time ago. From his (scientist) perspective, his job with the big food multi-national is probably just as soul-crushing as any other corporate gig.

"Should I check those test results one more time? Fuck it! It's Tuesday, my boss is an ahole, I've got to fill out my 10 page quarterly review, and I just don't fucking care right now. I'm going to Chotchkie's..."

Yeah, I want those guys tinkering around with the basic building blocks of my food.

TLDR: You assume there's no reason to NOT trust them, and I say there's no reason TO trust them.

Re:Consumer Choice is an Environmental Effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517487)

Because when 'bad' things happen to mass-planted food it kills a lot of people which in turn is fatal to any company that let it happen. Fortunately, more profitable is anything that increases yeild, which is generally a good thing. The point of my post is that it is some kind of preemtive discrimantory thinking that led to the conclusion the environment is in danger. In nature any random mutation can happen, there are no checks other than if its not fatal to the plant immediately - which applies to GE foods anyway. It's all kind of moot anyway since this is a sugar crop, and sugar is refined until it is nearly chemically pure!

Hope (0, Troll)

xant (99438) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516897)

How about my hope that anti-GM zealots won't behave like alarmist idiots? Nope, that hope has been dashed.

Look, almost everything you eat has been genetically modified. The fact that some of it was modified by altering DNA is pretty much irrelevant to the discussion; the supposed dangers of GM come from unbalancing the environment by introducing a foreign organism, something that we've done and then dealt with many times throughout human history. (Note, I'm ignoring the supposed health risks in consumption. They have no relevance to an enviromental impact study.)

Sugar is a purified product (chemical) (3, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516927)

This is on par with banning sea salt because they came up with a more efficient evaporation process. With the exception of turbinado (i.e. raw sugarcane extract) and molasses, white cane/beet sugar is 99%+ pure. Who cares if the DNA of the plant is different from the previously "genetically modified" breed of sugar beet? Sugar Beet is right up there with modern corn, strawberries and wheat in terms of plants that have been bred to produce 1000x what the plant produces naturally in the wild. There is no DNA in white sugar, and any that was in the Turbanado or Molasses was destroyed in the boiling process.

Re:Sugar is a purified product (chemical) (4, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#29516979)

Not even the summary says anything about end product safety. The concern is environmental impact, which has nothing to do with what the beets are eventually turned in to.

Re:Sugar is a purified product (chemical) (0)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517519)

Let's take a step back here and examine who brought this suit up, and what their intentions are. I think schools call this "analysis". You may have failed that portion; that's ok. Most schools don't grade on it anymore anyways.
 
Why would anyone give a damn what sugar beets, low producing or high production versions, do to the environment? They're a crop being grown on land specifically devoted (physically and legally) for the production of food/sugar. The only people who have a problem with this (and likely the people who brought the suit) are fringe "liberals"/eco-fanatics. Lawsuits (and their endless appeals process) are their primary weapon against "genetically modified" foods (which face it, if you read about it in depth, isn't one eigth as scary as it sounds, "genetically modified" food crops are essentially selectively bred strains. Which is why this lawsuit is frivilous, and the fact that the end product is a highly refined product with no health risk is what makes this particularly frustrating. If this was a suit against a crop of food eaten raw, like say, pineapples or potatoes, then yes this would be an issue, but AFAIK sugar beets aren't avalible nationally at grocerystores.

There's still hope, isn't there? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516941)

Yes there is still hope that the religious left Luddites will prove themselves as crazy and junk science based as the religious right.

But how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29516945)

These companies spent a lot of money developing these beets. How dare the US stand in their way? They deserve all the money from selling these beets. And of Course the seeds can spread to other fields. How else can they sue innocent farmers for patent infringement when their crops get unintentionally contaminated by the GM beets?

I don't mind GMO (1)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517001)

As long as they grow them in sealed greenhouses that do not allow for cross pollination with the plants I want to actually eat!

the pollen factor (4, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517019)

I think companies like Monsanto should not be allowed to sue farmers just because the pollen from their genetically modified food crops spread to other fields, Monsanto released the product in to the open air world so it is only natural that the pollen from their products are going to spread to other plants, proving the farmer not at fault...

So let's change the law (2, Interesting)

MaizeMan (1076255) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517137)

I don't think many people would disagree. But the solution isn't to ban genetically engineered crops it's to change the law so a farmer can only be sued if he or she can be proved to have known (or had the information to know if they'd cared to think about it) that their seed was actually carrying the trait, and also benefited from the trait (ie it's not like the farmer benefits at all from having beets resistant to a sepecific herbicide if they don't actually spay that herbicide, which would have killed their beets if they didn't contain the trait.)

Stupid Science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517059)

What has science ever done for us?!

If only we could go back to the blissful carefree days of the caveman....

By what authority (1)

Iowan41 (1139959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517109)

does this judge tell farmers what they may and may not plant on their own land?

This is a matter for tort, not judicial legislation.

Re:By what authority (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517311)

the same authority that says you cannot grow other certain types of plant regardless of the good that can come of it because some decide to smoke it.

Re:By what authority (1)

toiletsalmon (309546) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517317)

If a judge can tell you that you can't plant marijuana, why can't he tell you that you can't plant a specific type of beet?

Problem is not just with the food.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517165)

I agree, for the most part people are paranoid about genetic engineering of food crops. I'm not convinced this is bad though, It's ok to take our time w/stuff like this IMO.

However, the really disturbing issue to me is the cross pollination issue. Seed contaminated by your neighbors RoundUpReady corn? Random test performed by corporate police? Welcome to lawsuit hell and/or bankruptcy. You have no control over which way the wind blows. This is the part of the judge's argument that everyone here seems to be ignoring.

A fitting analogy would be a DRM virus. File infected? Can't prove you're licensed to run that virus? You must have knowingly stolen it. Nope, it doesn't matter if you wrote the song and recorded it yourself.

What a dink (1)

farooge (25395) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517199)

>There's still hope, isn't there? That we can at least get this stuff labeled properly?

It already is - and your tinfoil is showing.

Beet lobby to trump judge (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517213)

Wanna bet the beet lobby gets a special law through congress so they can keep planting pending the outcome of the environmental impact study?

Wanna bet the beet lobby will cooperate and the study will be done in such a way that it shows only minor, mitigatable impacts on the environment?*

*A complete whitewash would look too suspicious

GMO needs more research (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517253)

I'm generally the anti-environmental activism type but when it comes to GMO food, there are some serious concerns. Genetic engineering isn't the same as naturally selecting crop variations. It's a whole new game. In some cases the natural barriers that would keep out certain genetic material are circumvented to inject things like pesticide projection that could never naturally make it through the cell wall. Essentially, things are being injected into the dna of crops that could not get in there naturally and then any cross-pollinated crops will have this foreign DNA. Eventually, it's conceivable that ALL crops would be genetically modified. What happens when 10 or 20 years down the road we find that these modifications have serious health hazards but now we've lost all our non GMO varieties? There is little un-biased research done on this issue.

Also check out this documentary [hulu.com] , just don't believe everything they say.

In Soviet America: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517285)

Engineered sugar beets reject approval by YOU !

Yours In Ulyanovsk,
Philboyd S.

As simple as possible ... (4, Insightful)

BenBoy (615230) | more than 4 years ago | (#29517315)

... but not simpler.

I see a lot of "it's just sugar" or "everything's genetically modified" arguments cropping up here; it's really not that simple. Plants are surprisingly "promiscuous" (follow this thread for a number of, no doubt, terribly ribald comments on *that* one). Traits adopted by one set of plants can make their way over [wikipedia.org] to others of the same or different species. Depending on what traits are being modified, this can be a bad thing; consider that Roundup resistance in weeds is not just a result of selective pressure, but of the movement of genes from Monsanto's Roundup resistant seed stocks to neighboring plants.

Yes, this sort of "gene flow" happens in the soi disant natural world as well, but, like CO2 production, modern technology allows us to make bigger, more significant differences over a much shorter period of time. Caution is appropriate here.

Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29517341)

I think the Judge showed a great understanding in his conclusion. How many others would have the same insight?

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