EIS for Roundup Ready sugarbeet released

In 2012, at least 95% of sugarbeet acres in the U.S. were planted to Roundup Ready varieties, meaning they are resistant to glyphosate. Growers have overwhelmingly adopted this technology for a variety of reasons. Due to some recent litigation, however, sugarbeet growers have been required to follow some very strict guidelines on how these varieties can be grown and handled. These requirements stem from the USDA’s decision to “partially deregulate” Roundup Ready sugarbeet while a full environmental impact statement (EIS) was prepared. A U.S. District Court ruled in 2009 that this EIS needed to be prepared prior to a full deregulation of Roundup Ready sugarbeet varieties.

The USDA announced recently (June 1) that the final environmental impact statement (EIS) and plant pest risk assessment (PPRA) for Roundup Ready sugarbeet has been completed. The full EIS can be found in PDF form here.  An FAQ document that explains some of the history and what is contained in the EIS is also available.

In the EIS, APHIS proposes 3 potential alternatives:

  1. to maintain the regulated status of RR sugar beets
  2. to determine that nonregulated status was appropriate for RR sugar beets
  3. to continue regulation of RR sugar beets with regulatory conditions in place

As noted in the FAQ document, the final EIS  contains information evaluating:

“a host of environmental concerns and issues that have been raised regarding RR sugar beets. These include gene flow between RR sugar beets and non-GE sugar beet, table beet, Swiss chard, and wild beet varieties. APHIS also analyzed the implications for herbicide use and tillage, and impacts on weed development and on non-target organisms, such as amphibians. The Agency also analyzed the potential environmental impacts of its decision on public health and worker safety.”

<p”>Based on the extensive review done as part of the EIS preparation, APHIS has identified alternative #2 (nonregulated status for RR sugarbeet) as the preferred option, because the evidence strongly suggests that “RR sugar beets do not pose a plant pest risk.” This is good news for sugarbeet growers in Wyoming and across the US. A final regulatory decision will be made by the agency at least 30 days after publication of the final EIS in the Federal Register. If things go well, sugarbeet growers may be able to harvest the 2012 crop as a fully deregulated crop.

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