The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced its decision to partially deregulate the Roundup Ready® sugar beets developed by the Monsanto Co. These genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets resist the company’s Roundup Ready® herbicide. A court previously determined that APHIS violated the National Environmental Policy Act by deregulating the sugar beets without conducting an environmental impact statement (EIS). APHIS’s interim action was taken on the basis of its finding of no significant impact on human health or the environment by the GE sugar beet root crops and will remain in effect until its EIS is completed in 2012.

The agency’s action means that farmers can continue planting GE sugar beets under mandatory conditions that will restrict their movement and environmental release. According to APHIS, these conditions will ensure “that the implementation of this interim regulatory action will not result in any environmental impacts which may significantly affect the quality of the human environment.” APHIS refused to partially or fully deregulate GE sugar beet seed production, thus it remains subject to the agency’s regulations governing the introduction of certain GE organisms. See Federal Register, February 8, 2011.