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Monsanto to appeal court's order to destroy sugar beets

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Monsanto says it will appeal a federal judge's ruling this week that the Creve Coeur-based company's genetically engineered sugar beet seedlings planted in September be uprooted.

In August, Judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. District Court for the District of California ruled that selling and planting Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets for commercial planting was illegal because an environmental impact statement was never completed for the product, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In September, the USDA also said it is giving priority to completion of a study on Monsanto's sugar beet seeds for potential reapproval within two years.

However, environmental groups claimed the federal agency wrongly granted permits to several companies that produce seeds for further plantings.

Judge White followed up the August ruling with an order Nov. 30 that sugar beet seedlings that contain Monsanto's genes be destroyed.

"The evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing made clear that, even with the existence of protocols designed to minimize any environmental harm, there is a significant risk that the plantings pursuant to the permits will cause environmental harm," Judge White wrote in Tuesday's order.

Monsanto said it will appeal. "With due respect, we believe the court's action overlooked the factual evidence presented that no harm would be caused by these plantings, and is plainly inconsistent with the established law as recently announced by the U.S. Supreme Court," David Snively, general counsel for Monsanto, said in a statement.

A Monsanto spokesperson said the court's ruling does not affect Roundup Ready sugar beet seeds planted prior to the permits issued in September. "We've developed the technology and the sugar beet farmers have planted it for several years," said Monsanto spokesperson Tom Helscher. "We want to continue to provide it for the farmers who want to use the technology."

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