Breitenbush Days/ Sugar Beet Nights

The Wild Garden has just returned from the 2011 Northwest Farmer to Farmer Exchange

We Northwest farmers are very democratic

(a.k.a. Naked Farmer Conference) at Breitenbush Hot Springs, and I must say I am newly inspired for the season.  The ingredients were as follows:  two days of farm slideshows,nighttime wine drinking in geo-thermally heated cabins, soaking in hot springs, several inches of snow, delicious meals and informative workshops, all peppered with engaging conversation.  Mixing all of these, we created quite a delicious organic-information-sharing cake batter that is useful whetheryour baking pan is 1 acre or 100 acres.

Snow descended on Breitenbush shortly after the farmers did.

Unfortunately our man Frank could not soak his toes with us, as his presence was needed at the 9th circuit court of appeals in San Francisco. What is the sugar beet case doing in court this time? Well, immediately following Judge White’s order to remove Roundup Ready sugar beet stecklings from the fields this past December, supporters of the beets appealed the decision. In the mean time, farmers were not required to destroy their plants pending the decision of the appeals court. This week, a panel of judges assessed arguments from both sides as to whether or not Judge White’s decision was correct or not. The results will most likely be out within a couple weeks, and we are anxiously awaiting the outcome.

The USDA seems to have forgotten the reason this case was in court in the first place when they announced the partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets last week, just days before the appeal was to be heard. According to the Environmental Assessment the USDA released along with their recent announcement, the beets can be partially deregulated without causing a significant impact. However, as Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff commented in a Center for Food Safety press release,

“The lax conditions on growing the GE sugar beets in today’s approval are not materially different from those earlier rejected by the federal court as inadequate to protect other farmers, the public, and the environment.  USDA has yet again violated the law requiring preparation of an EIS before unleashing this genetically engineered crop”.

The outcome will be interesting, with a federal appeals court making a decision on  something that a federal agency is saying is legal to plant, for reasons which a federal court has said it is not legal to plant.

Stay tuned folks, and if you want to read more, the Center for Food Safety has a great press release outlining all of this confusing case.

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