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Lawsuit challenging deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets dismissed

A federal judge in Washington, DC, has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the partial deregulation of genetically engineered sugar beets...commonly referred to as Roundup Ready beets because they are resistant to the nation's most widely-use herbicide.

U-S District Judge John Bates declared the case moot, ruling that the USDA decision in July to fully commercialize the crop extinguished the partial deregulation measures at the heart of the lawsuit..

Both sides in the fight...biotech critics who want to ban the beets and the sugar beet industry that wants to keep using them...tried to keep the lawsuit alive, claiming the USDA's actions still warrant a court ruling because they're "capable of repetition yet evading review."

Roundup Ready sugar beets were fully deregulated by the USDA in 2005, but that decision was reversed in 2009 by a federal judge who found that the environmental studies on the possible impact of the beets had been inadequate.

A year later, the USDA partially deregulated the beets...allowing them to be cultivated under certain conditions including maintaining isolation distances from sexually-compatible crops, and monitoring fields to prevent the beets from flowering and going to seed.

Critics filed a legal complaint claiming the partial deregulation was too lenient and unlawful, but the sugar beet industry also sued, alleging the restrictions were unnecessarily strict.

When the USDA lifted the 2010 restrictions and allowed Roundup Ready beets to be fully commercialized, biotech critics urged the court to still rule on the legality of partial deregulation...saying the process could be repeated in the future with another crop.

The beet industry also made similar arguments in its challenge...saying the USDA could impose similar restrictions on other transgenic crops now and in the future.

Judge Baters rejected both argument, saying there isn't enough evidence to indicate the USDA would encounter a equivalent situation or take the same regulatory steps....and pointing out that opponents can still file a suit challenging the full deregulation.

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