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Center for Food Safety v. Schafer

ELR Citation: 40 ELR 20085
Nos. No. C08-00484, (N.D. Cal., 03/16/2010) Preliminary injuction denied

A district court denied environmental groups’ motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the use of genetically engineered sugar beets. On the likelihood of success on the merits, the court has already found that defendants, the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, violated NEPA by failing to conduct an EIS before deregulating genetically engineered sugar beets. The groups also demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm: there is evidence that genetically engineered sugar beets may mix with and contaminate Swiss chard, table beets, or conventional sugar beets through mechanical or other means. Nevertheless, upon balancing the equities and considering the public’s interest, issuing a preliminary injunction is not warranted. The groups did not move for preliminary injunction until five years after genetically engineered sugar beets were deregulated, three years after the case was filed, and four months after the court granted their motion for summary judgment on the merits. During this time, the industry has overwhelming converted to the use of genetically engineered sugar beets. If the court were to ban the planting and processing of such sugar beet crop, there would not be enough conventional seed for a full crop this year. The economic impact of such a shortage would be dramatic and widespread. The court therefore denies the motion for a preliminary injunction. The parties should not assume, however, that this decision is indicative of the court’s views on a permanent injunction. Rather, while the environmental review is pending, the sugar beet growers should take all efforts, going forward, to use conventional seed.

[A prior decision in this litigation can be found at 39 ELR 20219]