USDA gives final approval to herbicide resistant sugar beets

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MPR file photo Dan Gunderson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given final approval to the use of herbicide resistant sugar beets.

The decision was expected. USDA proposed deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets last month.

Farmers in Minnesota and elsewhere have used the Roundup Ready sugar beets for several years. After environmental and food safety groups sued, saying the crop should be regulated to prevent genetic contamination of organic beets and swiss chard, a federal judge ruled the USDA must complete an environmental impact statement and plant pest risk assessment. Farmers were allowed to plant the crop while the study was conducted.

In June the agency announced it’s proposal to fully deregulate the crop. Now the final documents are available. The USDA says there’s no evidence the genetically modified sugar beets pose a “plant pest risk.”

But the legal action around Roundup Ready sugar beets is not over.

The Center for Food Safety has a pending lawsuit against USDA over the earlier partial deregulation of the genetically modified crop. Staff Attorney Paige Tomaselli says there’s a good chance the group will file another lawsuit challenging the final USDA environmental impact statement.

An American Crystal Sugar Company spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment on the USDA ruling.

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