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Mar-05-2010 03:59printcomments

Judge in California Could Halt Planting of Genetically Modified Sugar Beets

Case in front of San Francisco federal judge could change future of 'mad scientist' food products on our dinner plates.

Sugar beets

(SAN FRANCISCO) - A case involving genetically modified (GM) food will be in front of a federal judge Friday in San Francisco.

Researchers say the future of generations of Americans hangs in the balance, as the judge could order a halt to the planting or harvesting of any GM “Roundup Ready” sugar beets in the U.S.

This would strike a blow to growers in the Red River Valley, where more sugar beets are grown than any other region. Most of these growers have already been using Roundup Ready seed varieties for two years.

Scientists say that is no type of positive proof. GM foods are put through a complicated unnatural process. Our reporter April Scott took this on just a few days ago in her article, While We Were Sleeping... GM Food and the Brink of No Return[1]

"The process behind genetically modified food involves a careful re-configuration of genes combining e-coli bacteria, soil bacteria and the cauliflower mosaic virus that causes tumors in plants. They add an antibiotic and then artificially force it into plant cells with a gene invasion technique. All this is so farmers can douse nearly unlimited amounts of Roundup Herbicide on the crops and the plants won’t die."

Professor Robert Kremer

The Organic & Non-GMO Report published an article in January, stating that scientists are finding many negative impacts of Roundup Ready GM crops.

They say the USDA doesn’t want to publicize studies showing negative impacts.

They spoke to Robert Kremer, a microbiologist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and an adjunct professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri.

He is co-author of one of five papers published in the October 2009 issue of The European Journal of Agronomy that found negative impacts of Roundup herbicide, which is used extensively with Roundup Ready genetically modified crops.

Kremer has been studying the impacts of glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, since 1997.

The Organic & Non-GMO Report interviewed Mr. Kremer about his research and the reluctance of the USDA to publicize the findings of the five papers.

Please give me an overview of your research
We started in 1997 wanting to see if this new system, Roundup Ready, would change the production of nematodes in soybean. We started looking at organisms in soybean roots and saw microorganisms colonizing the roots. We suspected that glyphosate was having an impact. There was a root fungi problem that seemed to be encouraging sudden death syndrome (SDS).
We saw the increase of these fungi in the Roundup Ready (genetically modified) system, both soybeans and corn.

What types of things are you seeing in the Roundup Ready system?
This system is altering the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Glyphosate is very systemic in the plant and is being released through the roots into the soil. Many studies show that glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient.

What are glyphosate’s impacts on beneficial soil bacteria?
The most obvious impact is on rhizobia, a bacterium that fixes nitrogen. It has been shown that glyphosate can be toxic to rhizobia. (Nitrogen fixing bacteria are important to soils because nitrogen is the most commonly deficient nutrient in many soils.)

What about research showing increased incidence of Fusarium in Roundup Ready GM crops?
We’ve taken field surveys and seen an increase in Fusarium with the use of glyphosate. Some Roundup Ready varieties even without using glyphosate tend to be more susceptible to being impacted by Fusarium. It could be an unintended consequence of genetic manipulation that could make it more susceptible.

Your paper also mentioned the potential of glyphosate to contaminate groundwater.
Yes, under certain circumstances. The big assumption for claims that glyphosate is benign is that it isn’t immediately absorbed by the soil. But research is showing that isn’t necessarily true; that it is still available in the soil.
If soil is full of phosphorous, glyphosate could leach into ground water. For example, farmers may use manure from confined animal feeding operations as a fertilizer. The soil will then contain high amounts of phosphorus, which overwhelms the soil. Any glyphosate that hits the soil will be a potential contaminant. It can stay in the soil or it might run off into streams or waterways.

What about glyphosate resistant weeds?
We have eight different species of glyphosate resistant weeds in Missouri. Some species of Johnson Grass are found in fields where Roundup is used year after year. It is a very aggressive weed.
To solve the problem of weed resistance, genetic engineers are developing soybeans that tolerate Roundup and Dicamba, another herbicide. They are incorporating another gene resistant to another herbicide. When resistance happens again, will they then develop a plant resistant to five or six herbicides? It’s an illogical circle.

With so much glyphosate being used, what types of long-term impacts do you think could occur?
We are already seeing glyphosate-resistant weeds. If we continue to use glyphosate in the same fields year after year, it’s a matter of time until microbial communities in the soil will shift to more detrimental species.
The use of glyphosate stimulates detrimental pathogens in the growing season but they go back down after the growing season. Eventually, they may build up in the soil and not go back down.

Are many researchers looking at the possibly negative impacts of glyphosate or Roundup Ready crops?
There are a handful of researchers. There is more research looking at the production of these crops.

The papers published in the European Journal of Agronomy received no publicity in the United States. Why is that?
I was working with USDA-ARS to publish a news release about these studies. I’ve gone all the way to the administrators, but they are reluctant to put something out. Their thinking is that if farmers are using this (Roundup Ready) technology, USDA doesn’t want negative information being released about it. This is how it is. I think the news release is still sitting on someone’s desk.

What about your future research?
We’re looking at some methods that could be used to overcome negative effects if we continue to use Roundup Ready crops, such as supplementation of nutrients by foliar application. I’m more interested in sustainable agriculture. More farmers are interested in using cover cropping to maintain soil quality and other organic amendments. But it’s a steep learning curve for them.


One of the primary proponents behind GM food is the Monsanto group, they brought Americans and Vietnamese the memorable cancer causing Agent Orange, a defoliant sprayed over the jungles during the Vietnam War. It has caused terrible birth defects and abnormalities in the children of those exposed to it.

Our writers Chuck Palazzo and John Paul Rossie, both report about the issues facing human beings as a result of the extensive military use of Agent Orange.

No Vietnam Veterans will tell you Monsanto is a good company[3].

The research says they are doing it to us again with GM foods, and roping the farmers into using these controversial methods because there is more profit involved, with no regard for what ingesting these things really does or will mean to the human body, already overwhelmed by so many preservatives and questionable ingredients[4].

The judge’s decision could affect many in agriculture. Besides the growers and other share owners, thousands of people work in the plants and drive beet-hauling trucks, an article in the Grand Fork Herald explains[2].

So lawyers from the group American Crystal will be on hand to do everything they can to persuade the judge not to put forth the order halting the planting of the controversial products.

It seems a tall order to believe that something controversial and fairly new could have such an impact, they have always grown sugar beets, but they never profited the way they do now.

The company's lawyers will use the fact that many people could potentially lose their jobs as a bargaining chip, along with "we have already been doing this for two years" as if that is any kind of proof.

Proof of profit perhaps, by tricking nature, in a nation that freaks out over stem cell research to save human lives, but allows the corporate sector to go mad and bring these potentially dangerous products to our dinner tables.

And they are trying all over the world to get governments and companies to buy in. It is a travesty and sooner or later somebody is going to put their foot down over these reckless attempts to push profits by selling products that are not fully tested or evaluated.

Good decisions have emerged from the San Francisco Federal Court in the past, we will see what happens.

[1] Mar-01-2010: While We Were Sleeping... GM Food and the Brink of No Return - April Scott

[2] Mar-01-2010: Sugar beet case could loom large - Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

[3] Nov-21-2009: Living the Lie: Agent Orange Activist Confronts

[4] Feb-21-2010: More on Monsanto, Agent Orange, Recent Trickery and Profiteering - Chuck Palazzo

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Jim Martindale March 9, 2010 1:15 pm (Pacific time)

I sure more people keep reading these posts and that jjdoublej and others of the same mind hears me well. This is not just for jj either. Being an eldest son of 7 on a hardscrabble hillside farm in Upstate NY, I ate a lot of corn and certainly my fair share of sugar too to put some flavor in the corn. In 2006, I had two run-ins with Frito Lay Original Recipe Corn Chips. It took five days after consuming the smallest size they sell to clear my colon of anything. It was the most agonizing event of my 62 years on this earth. The rights of passage should have produced a full-sized freight train locomotive. Instead it wasn't a baby-sized Lionel model. it took over 30 days to effect the repairs that were needed for normal function. This happened twice in a span of less than three months. I couldn't believe CORN could have anything to do with my agonizing pain. In fact the thought still wouldn't have crossed my mind except that I was reading Jeffrey Smith's Seeds book when this all happened. Had one more of the same thing happen in Nov of '06 as a result of a small amount in an appetizer at a Mexican Restaurant in IL. Our family continues to eat popcorn from numerous retail sources in Indiana at least once a week without fail and no side-effects. Chapter TWO: MOve family to China March 2009. Start eating yellow corn... lots of yellow corn. NO PROBLEM AT ALL. Chapter THREE: Return to US for one month in Feb. 2010. I ate one small box of popcorn at the Nat'l Machinery Show on Feb. 11th. At 8:30 AM I delivered another Baby Lionel with the labor of a full-term delivery (I think). More time repair time once again. The message is clear to me. Since popcorn has not been tinkered by anybody "yet", how's come I get the same reaction from it now 4 years after I was intolerant to GM yellow corn with no history of a problem with popcorn up to March '09. It's in the soil folks. If it corn were substantially the same GM or not why has my colon now responded to the popcorn as if it were yellow corn. How do weeds become tolerant of Round-Up? THis is not rocket science folks. It is called Horizontal Gene Transfer. Franken genes are more aggressive and are in your soil Mr Farmer. If the beets leaves stayed in the field. It won't matter if they stop using the GM seed or not. I'm a consulting agronomist for 35 years. I've talked personally with top scientists at Cornell Univ. about this situation. They are coming to terms with the mess, albeit SLOWLY but surely as we are incrementally being KILLED. The terrorist is in your cupboard folks!!! Love to give an interview, Tim. or testify in Federal Court.

Chuck Palazzo March 8, 2010 11:31 pm (Pacific time)

Tim et al, Thanks for the story and all of the comments. I can sympathize with the farmer that is perhaps uneducated on the effects of a GM seed not only on crop yield (or lack of)which might have been promised by Monsanto. But please remember - this is the same Monsanto that KNEW from the very beginning, as contracts were being signed with the US Government as well as other Governments, that dioxin laden Agent Orange was indeed harmful to humans, animals and the environment. We continue to suffer from this peril, and three generations later, not only American's die, but human beings from around the world die - all from Agent Orange. This same Monsanto continues to manufacture, market and sell this poison to third world countries, killing and maiming humans just to become wealthier. This same Monsanto has already been convicted of lying on their labels - stating that Round-up was biodegradable - it is in fact, not biodegradable and the courts have held AGAINST Monsanto. Please do some research - there are indeed alternatives to GM seeds and crops. Please learn about them and change your practices. Drink Round-up? Just like drinking Kool-Aid from Jim Jones! Do not believe the lie that your agronomist and the US Government believes and is trying to convince many of us to believe. -Chuck

Farmer's Wife March 7, 2010 8:26 pm (Pacific time)

My husband is a sugar beet farmer in the heart of the Red River Valley. I'm not an expert on farming, but we do talk about this subject often. While the sugar content in Roundup Ready beets is not as good for the farmers, they do not need to spray as many dangerous chemicals. Roundup is one of the safest chemicals to spray on the beets. My husbands agronomists say that you could safely drink roundup (not that I'd try). Once the beets are processed, it is all the same and doesn't affect a consumer. If this does pass, we're very concerned because his seed is ordered for the year and they are saying there might not be enough non-GM beet seed for this area. This will have a trickle effect for the farmers, Crystal Sugar plants, and seasonal workers this fall. More information needs to be given to people. It seems like there is a lot of scare tactics being used in these articles but they aren't telling the whole story...

Editor: I think scare tactics is a bit strong; this information is researched and attributed.  Scaring people is not a goal, alerting them is.  Surely you don't place local livelihood beyond the good of all people?  Everyone involved had a chance to resist this didn't they?  Correct me if I am wrong, please, but isn't that why there are organic farmers?  Playing with Monsanto just can't be very different from playing with the devil himself, I can't imagine why any American farmer would ever have trusted the company that claimed so many lives through its irresponsible development of Agent Orange and the subsequent loss of so many of our veterans, let alone the damage to the people of Vietnam.

Philip March 6, 2010 8:55 pm (Pacific time)

There is an interesting write-up here on how researchers in Australia tried to create a mouse contraceptive through genetic engineering and instead, entirely by accident, created an incredibly lethal version of mouse pox. To mix and match genes across genus, phyla and kingdom and then release these self-propagating organisms into the wild and pretend anyone has any idea the ultimate result is nonsense, it is the height of recklessness and misplaced scientific hubris. The story of the sorcerer’s apprentice was 200 years ahead of its time.

Farmer Herb March 6, 2010 7:38 am (Pacific time)

Yes grow marijauna, I'll grow more pot so you can get stoned and then you will get the munchies and buy that candy bar for yourself. To put it bluntly This country needs a good food shortage. Why is it always the government and big business bringing us down? 100 years ago people would have you shot for saying such things. You want farmers to feed the starving people in third world countries and then you question in the way they do it. I grew up when my family was so broke the only thing my mom bought from the store was milk and bread. We killed a beef processed it ourselves, shot deer and grew a huge garden and boy oh boy did we can and freeze food. I do not take my food for granted, many people these days already do and its a shame. Organic farmers in my area will produce 180 bushels of corn on an acre. I Produce 230 Bushels of corn. The reason they can produce so much is because the spread manure. Oh whats that spread more manure? where can we get it from HSUS wants to shut down all large feedlots and daries. When that happens no manure, no corn, no food.

Natalie March 5, 2010 10:03 pm (Pacific time)

If even flies don't want to sit on GM foods, they're not good for me either. This is the case, when being in my clear mind, I would rather stay primitive, trusting insects' senses more than the results of any scientific research.

JasonMChicago March 5, 2010 8:27 pm (Pacific time)

the USDA is one of the biggest frauds to consumers. GMO are dangerous to human, the environment, and animals. They are not equal to non-GMO food. The tipping point is being reached. The new is going to start testing and labeling products so consumers FINALLY have a choice. A choice that the USDA and Monsanto were trying to deny.

Osotan; March 5, 2010 8:26 pm (Pacific time)

Farmer Herb.,why don't you switch to growing marijauna? Who needs another candy bar. The little brats go into hyperspace and only want another candy bar. Smoke a doobie, get paid as a provider and don't worry about round-up ready no mo! Cool or what?

April March 5, 2010 10:32 am (Pacific time)

There is a huge difference between GMO food and non-GMO food. GM crops have been altered on a genetic level. I do not believe their claim that there is no difference. That is an industry ploy to keep you buying it. If there is no difference they should be proud to label products  "now with more GMOs"!

April, we really think this was point on, great work!

Your Editor

Farmer Herb March 5, 2010 4:30 pm (Pacific time)

I am a sugarbeet farmer in Michigan and I will argue that the weather in the last couple of years and the sugar market are the reasons we observed so much profit in the last two years. As for the ground water, I dont know for sure, but we are stewards of the land, it is our livelyhood and would not do anything to harm it for mere profit. Glyphosate is a much safer chemical than the products we have to control conventional bees. Most of those products were restricted use chemicals and I would be very glad to never use those again. The sugar market has the lowest supplies in more than 20 years. This is not the time to tell farmers they can't plant roundup ready sugarbeets a product made entirely from carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. If you dont think farmers should plant sugarbeets, then you can tell little johnny or jill that they cant have a candy bar, simply because there are none to be had.

Anonymous March 5, 2010 12:53 pm (Pacific time)

Genetically altered food is not the same as convential food in the least. The genes are altered. Government labeled GMOs as "substantially equivilant" to get around imposing regulations.

jjdoublej March 5, 2010 7:53 am (Pacific time)

Its Sugarbeets, not Soybeans as the title suggests. The sugar from these beets are IDENTICAL from sugar from conventional beets. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE!! The RR genes are not transferred to the sugar from the plant!

Osotan; March 5, 2010 9:59 am (Pacific time)

it sounds suspect to me due to the ground water contamination potential and my respect for conclusons and qualifications of the reasercher. The people like me who consume a geat amount of these products are unaware and/or misled,but we owe it to ourselves to find the info for good nutrition. It's out there and I hope the judge is thinking ahead.,no disrespect to the ones with their hands n the plow, I just don't trust continual genetic damage from corporate agendas without these herbicides prolonged effects on humans or the enviornment in mind. A bit of consciosness is required,speaking for myself anyway. I raise chickens and feed them untreated stock grade rice and the local vegetation they consume,insects too., is untreated jungle with several fruits and veggies and none of it is treated with chemicals. I am lucky. S-N.,thanks and keep on truckin'.

jjdoublej March 5, 2010 7:00 am (Pacific time)

Folks, please understand this, if nothing else..the sugar from these GMO sugarbeets is IDENTICAL to the sugar from non GMO. there is NO difference. In other words, the genetic traits in the plant to resist roundup DO NOT go into the resulting sugar. Just ask a Sugarbeet farmer the chemicals he used to use on sugarbeets before the RR varieties came out. you will be amazed. To the editors....this is RR sugarbeets that the judge is making a decision on..NOT soybeans.

gp March 5, 2010 4:13 am (Pacific time)

Another aspect of this is the exportation of GM seed and chemicals to other countries like some in South America. Countries like Brazil and Argentina wanted to get on the bandwagon and in Argentina's case a huge amount,one report said 95% of all the soy (soy is Argentina's main crop)was GM. When the EU wisely shut the door to GM food this left Argentina with little else to do but sell it for bio-fuels or cattle feed to North America. However, another twist is that Argentina has long had good range fed beef and now big feed lots are cropping up. Wonder where the cheap feed comes from? But it is even more complicated. Since agricultural exports are Argentina's main source of revenue,when Cristina, la presidenta, tried to impose a tariff on grain exports, Monsanto and other big ag/chem companies bankrolled the opposition and when her plan was voted down it nearly toppled the Argentine government last year.

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