Beets supply about half the nation's sugar, with the rest coming from sugar cane. About 10,000 farmers grow about 1.1 million acres of sugar beets, Mr. Markwart said. That makes it a small crop compared to staples like soybeans and corn.
The Agriculture Department did conduct an environmental assessment before approving the genetically engineered beets in 2005 for widespread planting. But the department concluded there would be no significant impact, so a fuller environmental impact statement was not needed.
But Judge White said that the pollen from the genetically engineered crops might spread to non-engineered beets. He said that the "potential elimination of farmer's choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer's choice to eat non-genetically engineered food" constituted a significant effect on the environment that necessitated an environmental impact statement.
In March, Judge White had asked the federal government if the Obama administration would take a different stance in the case than the Bush administration had. The new administration said there would be no change.
There's still hope, isn't there? That we can at least get this stuff labeled properly?"