DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Federal agriculture officials have released a plan to let farmers plant genetically modified sugar beets while a lawsuit over them is resolved, but farmers fear a partial lifting of a court-ordered ban won’t come in time for next year’s crop.
A federal judge in California issued an order last summer halting the planting of genetically modified sugar beets until the U.S. Department of Agriculture completes an environmental impact study on how the beets could affect conventional crops. The ruling had a widespread effect since nearly all the nation’s sugar beet farmers had converted to genetically modified seed.
Half of the nation’s sugar comes from sugar beets, and 95 percent of them are grown using so-called Roundup Ready seed produced by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. The seeds are engineered to withstand the weed killer Roundup, allowing farmers to reduce the use of other chemicals and limit tilling, which kills weeds but can contribute to erosion.