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Published August 22, 2011, 05:33 AM

Roundup beet case briefings due Jan. 6

FARGO, N.D. — A federal judge in Washington on Aug. 17 set a new schedule for legal briefs in the case over partial deregulation of Roundup Ready beets.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — A federal judge in Washington on Aug. 17 set a new schedule for legal briefs in the case over partial deregulation of Roundup Ready beets.

Dan Mott, a Minneapolis attorney for American Crystal Sugar Co., says U.S. District Judge John Bates issued an order, giving the various sides until Jan. 6 to complete motions and briefing in the case. Last April 12, a federal case in San Francisco, in which Center for Food Safety was the main plaintiff, was transferred to Washington.

The California case was consolidated with a separate, subsequent case in which the plaintiffs were sugar beet industry groups also looking for clarity in the matter.

Both cases were designed to establish the validity of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service interim “partial deregulation” of Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2011. The partial deregulation comes with strict monitoring, reporting and destruction of Red River Valley “bolter” beets, which theoretically could produce seed.

In a separate but related case, environmental groups successfully had challenged APHIS’ earlier, larger decision to permanently “deregulate” the genetically modified Roundup Ready beets, which allowed their planting in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The groups won that case, which required that USDA complete an Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be completed by May.

But when USDA issued the temporary, interim rules, the groups challenged those, too. In July, USDA produced “tens of thousands of pages” of documents about its temporary approval of Roundup Ready beets in the 2011 crop year. Lawyers must digest those through Aug. 29 and may make motions or briefings by Jan. 6. Based on what’s submitted, the court either could make a decision or schedule a hearing on the matter.

The court’s decision could decide whether Roundup Ready beets can be planted under interim rules again in 2012. The separate EIS also could approve or reject the technology, but with comment periods and other process, it probably would affect the 2013 crop.

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