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IDFA Urges USDA to Protect Planting of GMO Sugar Beets

Dec 10, 2010

IDFA on Monday submitted comments urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to act quickly to allow continued planting of genetically modified (GMO) sugar-beet seeds that have been engineered to withstand the weed killer Roundup®. USDA is reviewing the economic and environmental impact of the seeds and aims to release a final decision by the end of the year. This decision, and current legal activity surrounding the GMO seeds, will have immense economic implications for food manufacturers, since GMO beets account for 95 percent of the U.S. sugar beet crop and 60 percent of the domestic sugar supply.

In the comments, IDFA pressed USDA to provide regulatory clarity for the marketplace. The comments also highlighted the negative economic impact that the withdrawal of these beets would have on consumers, as well as the dairy industry. Currently, there are not nearly enough non-GMO sugar-beet seeds to meet the sugar needs of the U.S. market.

Some environmental and consumer groups oppose the use of GMO seeds and have filed suit in California. Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court judge ordered the removal of 265 acres of sugar-beet seedlings, which were intended for 2012 crops. USDA and others quickly appealed the decision, and this week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay of the ruling until December 23, 2010, halting the destruction of seedlings. In the interim, the Court will determine the next steps in the proceedings.

IDFA members that make ice cream, flavored milk and other products using sugar are greatly affected by the current low domestic supply levels and high input costs of sugar.
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. Tight supplies are already driving up sugar prices. World sugar prices have almost doubled since early May and are approaching 30-year highs.

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

Read the comments here.

Dairy Delivers