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USDA Allows Unrestricted Use of Roundup Ready Sugar Beets

Jul 25, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) last week announced its final decision to fully deregulate sugar beets that are genetically engineered to resist the herbicide commercially known as Roundup. The decision will allow unrestricted planting of the beets. USDA estimates that users and consumers of sugar would have paid an extra $1.6 billion if Roundup Ready sugar beets weren’t allowed to be planted. 

“IDFA applauds this decision, and it’s a welcome development for our sugar-using members,” said John Kelly, IDFA manager of international affairs. “Almost all sugar beets now grown in the U.S. are of the Roundup Ready variety, so restricting their planting would severely disrupt the sugar market and cause significant economic hardship to our members.”

APHIS originally deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2005 and farmers were quick to adopt the beets, which now account for over 95 percent of the U.S. crop. However, farmers’ ability to continue to use the crop came into question following a 2009 legal challenge vacating the deregulation. A California court ruling required APHIS to complete an environmental impact study before making a final decision on deregulation.

While the study was underway, farmers were allowed to continue to plant the beets under certain conditions. The study was completed in June, leading to the recent ruling allowing farmers to plant the Roundup Ready beets without restrictions.

IDFA filed comments in 2010 and 2011 that supported deregulation of the sugar beets and outlined the negative economic impact the ban or a partial ban would have on the dairy industry. The dairy industry uses about 11 percent of the U.S. industrial sugar supply, and IDFA members that make ice cream, flavored milk, yogurt and other products using sugar are greatly affected by domestic sugar prices and supplies.

Biotech opponents, however, likely will continue to challenge this action by APHIS. If they challenge the deregulation decision in court and succeed, APHIS would have to revert back to a partial restricted deregulation of the Roundup Ready beets.

For more information, contact Kelly at


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