USDA partially deregulating GM sugar beets

Mechanical harvesting of sugar beets

U.S. agricultural regulators…said despite a court ban, they would allow commercial planting of genetically modified sugar beets under closely controlled conditions while they complete a full environmental impact statement.

The move marks the second-such boost by the United States for contested biotech crops in a week, and underscores U.S. determination to expand the use of GMO crops amid rising global fears over food security and surging prices.

After approving genetically altered alfalfa last week in the face of bitter protest and after court rulings against an earlier sugar beet approval, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would allow Monsanto Co.’s “Roundup Ready” sugar beets back in the fields this spring.

Beet planting will be done under closely controlled conditions to prevent any potential plant pest risks, according to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

“After conducting an environmental assessment, accepting and reviewing public comments and conducting a plant pest risk assessment, APHIS has determined that the Roundup Ready sugar beet root crop, when grown under APHIS imposed conditions, can be partially deregulated without posing a plant pest risk or having a significant effect on the environment,” said Michael Gregoire, deputy administrator for APHIS’ biotechnology regulatory services…

Monsanto’s biotech beets, engineered to tolerate the company’s Roundup herbicide and make weed management easier for growers, make up 95 percent of the U.S. sugar beet crop and are needed to avoid a steep drop in U.S. sugar production, officials have said…

Under the partial deregulation announced Friday, growers of the Roundup Ready sugar beet rootcrop will be required to enter into a compliance agreement that outlines mandatory requirements for how the crop can be grown. APHIS expects that sugar beet cooperatives and processors will be the only entities that will enter into compliance agreements on behalf of their respective members/farmers.

Why a diminishing crop isn’t explained well in the article; but, I felt it useful to keep our readers up-to-date with the processes in play. The organic-only crowd will have predictable answers. Sadly, often involving opposition to scientific study. For that reason alone, I have to admit to a bit of sympathy for corporations for whom I usually would have no warmish emotion.

The search for accurate informed study – and that includes circumstances that change with time – achieves more than running and hiding. Even when the boogeyman is an agribiz Gargantua.