View Full Version : Obama administration upholds GM sugarbeet deregulation

10-20-10, 08:40 PM
This item is dated, but I haven't seen anything more recent so perhaps this is the last word.

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 01-Apr-2009
The USDA has chosen not to change laws on genetically engineered sugarbeets in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice requesting a review of deregulation for the beets last month.

The first crop of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugarbeets, genetically engineered to be resistant to the company’s Roundup-brand herbicide, was harvested in the fall following approval from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
But the plaintiffs argued that Monsanto, currently the sole supplier of GM (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/content/search?SearchText=GM&FromNews) sugarbeets, should be required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before its GM beets are allowed to be grown without restriction. In light of the new administration, they called on APHIS (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/content/search?SearchText=APHIS&FromNews) to reconsider this option.

Following the USDA (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/content/search?SearchText=USDA&FromNews) lawyers’ decision to retain the department’s current position, CFS attorney Zelig Golden said: “This certainly is not the ‘change’ the Obama Administration promised. We’re very disappointed that the USDA and Secretary Vilsack did not take this important opportunity to reverse the Bush Administration’s flawed position on GMOs, and take steps to safeguard public health, environment and farmers’ livelihoods.”

A USDA spokesperson told FoodNavigator-USA.com: "USDA has a rigorous science-based regulatory system and has adhered to our authorities and implementation of National Environmental Policy Act statutes."
She added: “We stand by our decision.”

GM sugarbeet concerns
The CFS has expressed concern that GM beet pollen could contaminate non-GM and organic crops because sugarbeets (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/content/search?SearchText=sugarbeets&FromNews) are wind pollinated. The organization has long questioned the safety of GM sugarbeets, claiming that “they have not been proven safe” and saying that at Monsanto’s request, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “increased allowable levels of herbicide residues [glyphosate] on GM sugar beet roots by up to 5,000 percent when USDA approved the crop for planting.”
However, a spokesperson for Monsanto told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “The referenced ‘5,000 percent increase’ is not being used in its complete and correct context…Refined sugarbeet roots produce pure sugar that is the same as any other sugar, and with no glyphosate residue.

“Critics of Roundup Ready sugarbeets like to publicize this decade-old EPA increase to scare people, but do not further qualify their math by purposely omitting two important facts: 1) The original 30-year-old tolerance was set at time when glyphosate was not used on sugarbeet crops, and 2) the increase is currently at a maximum EPA safe tolerance level of 1/1000th percent (0.001%).”

Industry action
Meanwhile, a group of 82 organizations representing farm, food, environmental and public interest groups, sent a letter to USDA secretary Tom Vilsack last month asking that new approvals of GM crops be blocked until the regulatory situation is clearer – and what they see as “serious deficiencies” are corrected.
Many food manufacturers are also resistant to GM sugarbeets, and over 70 food companies have signed the Non-Genetically Modified Beet Sugar Registry, pledging that they will not use or sell genetically modified beet sugar.


10-21-10, 08:15 PM
Actually in August, a federal court banned the GMO beets and there are all kinds of screams about an impending sugar shortage because nobody has non-GMO seeds available to plant right now. Let me see if I can find some info on this. It's not a permanent ban yet but they do have to prove there won't be an environmental impact.

10-21-10, 08:17 PM
Genetically-engineered sugar beets won’t be in season next year – or at least until the Department of Agriculture proves that they won’t harm the environment.

August 13 ushered a temporary ban on scientifically modified sugar beet seeds, as decided on by Jeffrey S. White, District Judge from San Francisco, California. Re-planting of the said seed is prohibited, to be lifted upon submission by the said department of a statement on the potential environmental impact of growing the GM beets. Two to three years is needed to complete such thorough study.

Center for Food Security (CFS) Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell considers this ruling as a milestone in their battle to pull out the special crops, even bashing the government agency for failing to fully review the future effects before granting their seal of approval.

He hopes that the Agriculture Department will prioritize protection of the environment, end consumers and the farmers, and not the income of biotechnology corporations.

CFS, along with the Sierra Club and the Organic Seed Alliance, has been embattled with the beets since two years ago, when they first submitted the case.

St. Louis-based genetically modification master Monsanto Company made the beets to combat Roundup Ready, the renowned herbicide. The less labor-, fuel-, and equipment-intensive breakthrough lowered crop producers’ costs. This made the farmers completely accept the pioneering technology.

In fact, from Oregon, all the way to Michigan, ten states are already sown with the seeds, covering more than a million acres of land. However, the Willamette Valley, Oregon-sourced seeds won’t be usable until the moratorium is removed.

While there is no permanent prohibition, American supply will most probably suffer. The Sugar Industry Biotechnology said last Saturday that beet crop value was of utmost importance to the economies of rural communities.

Scientific seeds compose almost all but 5% of the present total beet species, while the produce themselves occupy nearly 50% of the nationwide source of sugar. Non-modified varieties and weed killers are uncommon to take over the absence of the popular crops.
The judge seems not show much concern over such issue. Given that he already dropped the genetically-altered beet industry deregulation, the responsible authorities already bought time for a possible downturn, which White mentioned in his ten-page decision.

Unconventional genes of the said crops might be passed on to naturally-bred ones, such as table beets and chard, which is the chief argument of conservation camps, food safety supporters and organic farmers.

Another San Francisco-fielded judge was influenced three years ago by such contention, condemning the planting of scientifically-altered alfalfa seeds.

The Supreme Court already rejected the sanction versus commercial production of the modified seeds by Monsanto. Nevertheless, the environmental review required to cancel the limitation is not yet available to date.

10-21-10, 08:49 PM
Mello, thank you so much for following up with this. I thought there had been newer developments but hadn't made the time to search.

This sounds like good news all around; a similar cautious approach is being taken with GM alfalfa. And of course that whole "The less labor-, fuel-, and equipment-intensive breakthrough lowered crop producers’ costs" is an outright lie. RR crops require the regular spraying of [Monsanto's] RoundUp to kill weeds. That's the whole idea, after all. RoundUp (Glysophate) is not the gentle, harmless, innocent, biodegradable herbicide Monsanto would like us to believe.

Vilsack must have his undies in a bunch.

However, the penultimate sentence puzzles me. Not sure what they're trying to say. Can someone translate, please?