The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has determined that genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets are “no longer considered a regulated article under our regulations governing the introduction of certain genetically engineered organisms.” According to the agency, the crop, which is engineered to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate and is known as “Roundup Ready®, is “unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and, in fact, is not a plant pest.” Thus, the crop is no longer subject to federal GE regulation.
The determination ends a lengthy dispute that began when organic farmers claimed that APHIS failed, when deregulating the crop in 2005, to properly consider the crop’s propensity to cross-pollinate nearby fields of conventional sugar beets and the likelihood that herbicide-resistant weeds would also result from planting the GE crop. A federal court agreed and ordered the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS). The Environmental Protection Agency published the final EIS on which APHIS based its deregulation decision in June 2012. See Federal Register, July 20, 2012.