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Published September 24, 2009, 08:07 AM

Biotech beets ruling could impact Red River Valley

A decision by a federal judge to overturn federal approval of a variety of genetically engineered sugar beets could have a big impact on the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

GRAND FORKS (AP) — A decision by a federal judge to overturn federal approval of a variety of genetically engineered sugar beets could have a big impact on the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

The “Roundup Ready” sugar beets engineered by Monsanto Co. to resist a weed killer produced by the agricultural giant were approved for use by Red River Valley beet co-ops in 2008, and nearly all of the region’s beets now have the trait.

American Crystal Sugar Co. officials have declined to speculate on what might happen in the court case, but CEO David Berg said the co-op thinks Roundup Ready sugar beets are good for the industry. Growers can save on labor, fuel costs and equipment wear by planting the beets.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service violated environmental law by failing to take a “hard look” at whether the Roundup Ready beets would eventually share their genes with other crops. He ordered the agency to produce an environmental impact statement.

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