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USDA Partially Deregulating Biotech Sugar Beets

February 04, 2011 Word just came that the ban on planting transgenic (GMO) sugar beets has been lifted.

“US agricultural regulators on Friday said despite a court ban, they would allow commercial planting of genetically modified sugar beets under closely controlled conditions.

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 (MON.N) “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.

The biotech beets, engineered to tolerate Roundup herbicide, 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.

The government has estimated if growers have to rely on a limited supply of conventional sugar beet seeds, U.S. sugar production could drop by more than 1.6 million tons, or about 21 percent.”

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UPDATE: more on this from the Center for Food Safety.

“There is clear evidence of harm to the environment from GE sugar beets,” said Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney for the Center for Food Safety. “Because USDA continues to bow to industry pressure and permits further commercial production of Roundup Ready sugar beets, without first preparing an EIS or protecting the public, the Center for Food Safety will once again seek to halt the planting in court.”

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