Sugar beets

After years under consideration by the USDA, the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has finally approved the deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready (RR) genetically modified sugar beets.

According to a statement by the USDA, the agency has determined that the genetically modified beets, which are designed to resist heavy application of the pesticide glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup), are “as safe as traditionally bred sugar beets.”

The final decision to deregulate the beets comes after a lawsuit was filed against the USDA in 2009 by groups including the Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, High Mowing Organic Seeds and the Sierra Club, for failure to complete an Environmental Impact Study on the safety of the beets. Planting the controversial sugar beets was temporarily suspended by a federal judge, but later overridden by the USDA to prevent a sugar shortage. In February 2011, a partial deregulation of the plants was approved that allowed some growers to begin planting the beets under certain regulatory permits. The beets had already been approved back in 2005, and more than 95 percent of the sugar beets grown in the U.S. are already genetically modified.

In a statement released by the agency last week, the USDA said: “Since a district court decision in 2009, APHIS has worked hard to complete this final EIS to ensure it is sound and comprehensive. APHIS’ determination of nonregulated status of RR sugar beets reflects this hard work and will become effective upon publication of the Agency’s notice of availability of the determination and record of decision in the Federal Register on July 20, 2012.”

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Image: Dag Endresen