The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced today its final decision to deregulate a variety of sugar beet, commonly known as Roundup Ready (RR) sugar beets, that is genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.
APHIS said the following in a statement: “After completing both a thorough environmental impact statement (EIS) and plant pest risk assessment (PPRA), holding three public meetings and considering and analyzing thousands of comments regarding its analyses, APHIS has determined that, from the standpoint of plant pest risk, RR sugar beets are as safe as traditionally bred sugar beets.”
This decision comes as good news to farmers, who can now freely cultivate the sugar beets, benefitting from a technology that allows more precise and environmentally benign control of weeds. Read more.
USDA continues to show support for GM crops, Washington Post reports
The Washington Post points out that the USDA has continued to strengthen the position of GM crops with the approval of GM alfalfa, GM corn and limited approval of GM sugar beets. The article notes that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has “long supported genetic engineering.” Read more.
Genetic modification used to fight banana disease in Uganda, CNN reports
According to CNN, research shows that genetic modification may help to fight banana disease in Uganda, the world’s second largest producer of the crop. Thirty percent of Uganda’s banana crop has been infected with the disease. Professor Wilberforce Tushemereirwe at the National Banana Research Program, which is leading the research project, says, “Results from the lab were promising.” He added in the article, “indications are that the field results will follow suit.” Read more
The Economist Magazine is hosting an online debate discussing whether biotechnology can be used to advance sustainable agriculture. CBI Expert and author of Tomorrow’s Table Dr. Pamela Ronald of University of California - Davis has provided the opening statement on behalf of the motion that biotechnology can contribute to sustainable agriculture. Dr. Ronald writes, “Well-documented benefits of GE crops include massive reductions of insecticides in the environment, improved soil quality and reduced erosion, prevention of destruction of the Hawaiian papaya industry, proven health benefits to farmers and families growing GE crops as a result of reduced exposure to harsh chemicals…”
Vote in the Economist Magazine’s debate: are biotechnology and sustainable agriculture complementary?
You can weigh in with your view and vote in the debate. Voting ends November 10. Vote and read more here.
Several Leading Environmentalists voice support for agricultural biotechnology
In recent years well-known environmentalists such as Mark Lynas, Stewart Brand and Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace, have reversed their unfavorable positions towards genetically modified (GM) crops and have voiced support for GM Crops as a result of data that demonstrates the environmental benefits of agricultural biotechnology. According to a piece in the UK Telegraph, “Mr. Lynas, who along with other activists ripped up trial GM crops in the 1990s, said that GM food had now been consumed by millions of people in the US for more than 10 years without harm, and this had convinced him to change his views.” Read more.
USDA announces plans to re-approve genetically modified sugar beets
The USDA announced plans to move forward with approving genetically modified (GM) sugar beets for a second time this week. A recent federal court ruling has called for an additional environmental assessment of the crop before it can be planted again, despite it having been approved by the USDA five years ago. Genetically modified sugar beets currently account for 95 percent of the U.S. crop and according to an estimate by the USDA, if farmers cannot plant it next spring, U.S. sugar production will be cut by about 20 percent. Read more.