A federal judge last week ordered environmental groups and the USDA to provide more evidence before he will make a decision on whether to allow the USDA to permit Roundup Ready sugar beet planting in 2011. It appears the judge's decision is still weeks away.


U. S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White for the Northern District of California holds the future of Roundup Ready sugar beet planting for the nation. Appeals and injunctions are likely no matter which side wins, and planting definitely is in jeopardy, according to those familiar with the case.


Additional documents to be shared with the judge and environmental plaintiffs include "unredacted" copies of permits the USDA has previously issued for producing the genetically modified seed and information about the acreage that was planted with the seed before an injunction was issued. Roundup Ready beets were first planted five years ago, and the estimate is that 95 percent of the U.S. sugar beet crop as of 2010 was modified beets.


Judge White was the one who threw out the USDA approval for the planting of the modified seed in August. He said the ag department hadn't done enough research into the seeds' environmental impact. But the USDA after the ruling allowed seed companies to proceed with seed production as data analysis to prove the safety of the beets progressed.


The case is critical to the U.S. sugar industry, according to U.S. sugar industry. USDA estimates that sugar production will fall by about 20 percent if farmers are banned from planting Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2011. This lowered production would likely impact sugar prices in the U.S. because strict tariffs imposed by the U.S. on sugar imports means a short crop would not be replaced.


The Dow Jones Newswire is reporting that globally tight sugar supplies along with this court case's potential impact hanging over the industry has already driven sugar prices up.


The newswire also noted that Monsanto Co., Betaseed Inc. and Syngenta have intervened in the case — supported USDA as a friend of the court.