USDA Lets Farmers Plant Biotech Sugar Beets for 2011 Season

The USDA announces that it will issue a &ldquo;partial deregulation&rdquo; for the most popular variety of sugar beets, Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beets, which are genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate.</p>

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, February 04, 2011) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it will issue a “partial deregulation” for the most popular variety of sugar beets, Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beets, which are genetically engineered to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate.

The “partial” deregulation is necessary so growers can begin spring planting while the USDA completes a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) ordered by a District Court ruling in August 2010.  The EIS will further analyze the potential environmental impact of the crop.

In the meantime, USDA has authority to allow limited planting, as long as it complies with the National Environmental Policy, the Plant Protection Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.  BIO will carefully review the details of the interim measures and conditions USDA announced today.

Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in response to the USDA announcement:

“Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s decision to partially deregulate Roundup Ready sugar beets is a reasonable interim step that allows farmers to move forward with planting decisions while USDA completes the EIS, which is expected to take at least another year.

“Sugar beets are planted on more than one million acres in 10 states and produce nearly half our nation's sugar supply.  The ongoing litigation has created uncertainty for farmers, sugar producers, technology providers and researchers, which in turn has hurt our agriculture sector and rural economies.

“Farmers have overwhelmingly embraced biotech crops with nearly 95 percent of sugar beet farmers choosing to plant Roundup Ready beets.  This technology has produced record harvests in recent years and increased farmer profitability while minimizing on-farm labor and environmental impact.

“We remain hopeful that this action, along with the decision made last week on Roundup Ready alfalfa, will pave the way for new technologies in the pipeline.  Biotechnology can help crops thrive in drought-prone areas, improve the nutrition content of foods, grow alternative energy sources and improve the lives of farmers and rural communities around the globe.

“In order to realize the potential economic, environmental and productivity benefits, the U.S. government must embrace scientific innovation, listen to growers’ needs and support all types of production practices.  Consumers will be better served by farmers who have choices, access to technologies and confidence in a regulatory system that is based on sound science.”

*Note:  The USDA announcement and a Q&A document are posted on the USDA-APHIS website at


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