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Here’s an odd case for the Supreme Court to hear: Monsanto has asked SCOTUS to overturn a ban on genetically modified, Roundup Ready, alfalfa. What’s odd is that the Department of Agriculture is doing a study on alfalfa GMOs and may well release the results before the SCOTUS decision mid year, making the court case moot. Why, then, are Monsanto and the Court bothering? The answer is that the real concern is a parallel case, that of genetically modified sugar beets.

Alfalfa is, if you’ll excuse the expression, small potatoes. Genetically modified alfalfa is only 1 percent of the U.S. alfalfa crop. But genetically modified sugar beets are 95 percent of the U.S. sugar beet crop–and sugar beets account for half of the sugar in the U.S.

So here’s how the situation on sugar beets stands. The Agriculture Department approved the sale of these GMOs in 2005, but a San Francisco judge (you know, probably some hippy fan of Nancy Pelosi) ruled that the Ag Department’s approval was premature and ordered a more exhaustive study. The Center for Food Safety is expected to seek an outright ban in the next phase of the case.

Not if we can get the Court to rule out such bans, says Monsanto. We’ve got a world to feed and Roundup Ready crops are the efficient (also highly profitable) way to do it. Why these pesky environmentalists have to stick their noses in is a mystery.

One of them did that at stltoday.com. He quoted this analysis from an article in the International Journal of Biological Sciences:

“However, in the three GM maize varieties that formed the basis of this investigation, new side effects linked to the consumption of these cereals were revealed, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others [4]. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity.However, in the three GM maize varieties that formed the basis of this investigation, new side effects linked to the consumption of these cereals were revealed, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others [4]. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity.”

So far, if you want to find studies that contradict Monsanto’s version of the truth, you have to go abroad. The European Union, relying on non-Monsanto studies, classes Roundup as “dangerous for the environment” and so, by extension, doesn’t want Roundup Ready seeds used on the continent. But then, Europeans don’t have Monsanto’s headquarters handing out campaign contributions over there.