The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a district court decision that ordered the destruction of a crop of genetically modified (GM) sugar beets. Ctr. for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. 10-17719 (9th Cir. 2/25/11). The district court had issued a preliminary injunction ordering the beets, which are resistant to the Roundup-brand herbicide, destroyed because they might cross-pollinate with other non-modified beets.
The appeals court noted that the beets, which produce nearly one-half of the U.S. supply of refined sugar, reproduce through pollination but are generally harvested before they reach the pollination stage. According to the court, the beets are therefore unlikely to contaminate nearby fields. In addition, the beets are confined to geographic areas in Arizona and Oregon. Based on “[b]iology, geography, field experience, and permit restrictions,” the court found that plaintiff’s case for irreparable injury “was unlikely.” The appellate court therefore vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded the matter for further proceedings consistent with its decision.