USDA approves growing of biotech sugar beet – again

Sugar beet growers in the USA will be permitted to grow Roundup Ready sugar beet again this spring after the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved planting under strict conditions.

The announcement is the latest made during a back-and-forth court case, in which a Californian district judge ordered the crop could not be grown until the USDA conducted a full environmental audit.

That audit is not expected to be completed until May 2012, but the USDA has said planting may continue provided growers follow conditions that include monitoring, and destroying bolters every month beginning 1 April.

In addition, fields used have to be monitored for volunteer beet for a further three years, and any equipment used for planting, cultivating or harvesting chard or red beet production must not be used or shared for GM beet cultivation or harvesting.

Four-mile separation distances are also being imposed between GM sugar beet seed crops and other related beet seed crops.

However, opponents to the biotech beets have indicated they will take the USDA back to court again.

Center for Food Safety attorney Paige Tomaselli told Reuters the measures were inadequate.

“The measures provided in the decision will not protect farmers and will not protect public health and the environment,” she said. “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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