USDA Beets Back the Environmentalists

ACSH staffers are pleased that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has once again ruled on the side of science, this time allowing American farmers to continue growing genetically modified sugar beets. The biotech seeds, which last year accounted for 90 percent of all sugar beets planted in the U.S., were barred from use until an environmental impact statement assessing the effects of the GM crop was completed, according to a federal district court ruling in August. Representing a win-win for science and for the American consumer, the USDA on Friday announced a “partial deregulation” of the beets that will allow their harvesting to continue unimpeded until the environmental survey is completed in May 2012.

Since sugar beets are the source of approximately half of the American sugar supply, this ruling is very important both from the point of view of the future of biotech food, and more acutely, for the future of food prices, says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross.

Among those disgruntled by the news, however, is the “environmental” group Earthjustice, which unsurprisingly believes the USDA’s decision did not take into consideration the true concerns of the environmentalists and organic farmers.

Dr. Ross counters that the Agriculture Department’s decision to resume growing GM sugar beets in conjunction with their ruling last week to continue the unrestricted growth of GM alfalfa will do a great deal of good for both farmers, and more importantly, for the public. “Now, the American people will no longer be at risk for having the availability of sugar diminished along with unacceptable and needless spikes in its price.”