Tuesday, June 5, 2012

USDA deregulates beets

USDA deregulates GMO sugar beets — again
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
June 06, 2012

The USDA has decide to again fully deregulate genetically engineered sugar beets that are resistant to glyphosate herbicides.

The agency has found that the crop doesn’t pose a plant pest risk and thus shouldn’t be subject to restrictions.

Once the USDA enters a final record of decision — most likely after a month — farmers will be able to grow the crop without current conditions, such as isolation distances from related crops and monitoring requirements.

It’s unclear how the agency’s decision to commercialize the crop will affect ongoing litigation over these partial deregulation measures, which biotech critics say are unlawful.

Oral arguments in that lawsuit are scheduled for June 22, but the full deregulation decision may raise the question of whether the case is moot.

The Center for Food Safety, which opposes the crop’s deregulation, is disappointed by the USDA’s finding that “Roundup Ready” sugar beets should be re-commercialized.

George Kimbrell, attorney for the group, said he disagrees with the agency’s claim that it lacks regulatory authority over biotech crops that are not considered plant pest risks.

“I think it’s a red herring,” said Kimbrell, adding that USDA has broad powers to regulate crops.

Transgenic sugar beets were originally deregulated by the agency in 2005 but that decision was overturned by a federal judge in California in 2009.

In 2010, the USDA announced partial deregulation measures that have since governed the crop’s cultivation.

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