In October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the results of its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) evaluating the potential environmental effects of sugar beets genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide known commercially as Roundup. Responding to APHIS's request for comments on the draft statement, IDFA on Monday submitted comments supporting full deregulation of the Roundup Ready sugar beets.
"We concur with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that in light of the findings in the draft EIS, full deregulation is the appropriate step, and is safe and in the public interest," IDFA said in the comments. "To deny the petition for non-regulated status would severely disrupt the sugar market, cause unreliable supplies, excessively high prices and significant economic hardship to our industry."
APHIS originally deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2005, but a 2009 legal challenge vacated the deregulation, and a California court ruled that APHIS must complete the environmental impact study before making a final decision on deregulation. In the draft statement, APHIS listed three possible action steps:
- deny the petition seeking a determination of non-regulated status,
- make a determination of non-regulated status, or
- extend the partial deregulation of RR sugar beets for the root crop, with mandatory conditions and restrictions.
The current legal and regulatory activity surrounding the Roundup Ready sugar beets will have immense economic implications for food manufacturers. Growers rapidly adopted the beets after the original deregulation in 2005, and they currently account for 95 percent of the U.S. sugar beet crop and 60 percent of the domestic sugar supply.
Tight Sugar Supplies Driving Prices Higher
IDFA members that make ice cream, flavored milk, yogurt and other products using sugar, about 200 companies in total, are greatly affected by domestic sugar prices and supplies. USDA estimates that users and consumers of sugar would pay an extra $1.6 billion if Roundup Ready sugar beets aren't allowed to be planted. The average price paid by industrial sugar users at wholesale would have risen 24 percent, according to USDA.
"Tight supplies are already driving up sugar prices to record levels," IDFA said in the comments. "In this challenging economic environment, IDFA’s sugar-using members can ill afford to incur further cost increases, nor are consumers well-positioned to absorb these costs."
Strict tariffs currently imposed by the United States on sugar imports make it difficult for food manufacturers to make up any shortfall by importing sugar.
IDFA will continue to monitor the situation and work with stakeholders and government entities to support actions that will provide adequate and cost-effective sugar supplies for members.
For more information, contact John Kelly, IDFA manager of international affairs, at email@example.com.