The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has published a notice of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on genetically modified (GM) sugar beets. The agency had previously deregulated sugar beets genetically modified for glyphosate resistance without preparing an EIS and was ordered in September 2009 by a federal court in California to prepare one after its action was challenged by organic seed and nonprofit organizations. The court concluded that the environmental assessment which APHIS prepared failed to consider a number of environmental and related economic impacts of the GM crops.
Thus, APHIS is planning to prepare an EIS and requests public comment by June 28, 2010, on the potential issues and reasonable alternatives it intends to include. Among those issues identified in the notice are data on production levels of organic and conventional sugar beets and other crops by region, state and county; potential impacts of GM sugar beet cultivation on livestock production and on food and feed; weed management practices for organic sugar beet systems; the cumulative impact on the development of glyphosate-resistant weeds; and the potential for gene flow from GM sugar beets to other species. See Federal Register, May 28, 2010.