Sugar Beets

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White revoked a five-year-old approval of genetically altered sugar beets from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Judge White cited the USDA’s insufficient testing of weedkiller-tolerant sugar beets and their possible effects to the environment.

Genetically modified (GMO) sugar beets are already planted on more than one million acres of farmland, spanning 10 different states from Michigan to Oregon. In fact, the Roundup-resistant gene is present in 95-percent of U.S.-grown sugar beet plants…


And while this year’s yield can be harvested, processed, and sold as sugar, no genetically-altered seeds may be planted next spring. Not until the USDA submits an environmental impact statement–a process that can take up to three years.

Plants with this genetic mutation are immune to glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup.

The Sierra Club, The Center for Food Safety, and the Organic Seed Alliance have been trying to stop the biotech beets since 2008. Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety’s executive director, hailed Friday’s decision as a major victory, hoping that “the agency [USDA] will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto.”

This could be a major headache for sugar beet growers and food producers. Sugar beets make up one-half of the U.S. sugar supply. This could also be a huge win in the fight against GMO foods as U.S.-grown corn, soybeans and cotton are all mostly GMO seeds.

But Judge White has little concern over the impact of his decision. The USDA “has already had more than sufficient time to take interim measures, but failed to act expediently,” White wrote.