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[genet-news] RISK ASSESSMENT & APPROVAL: USDA plan could partially lift sugar beet ban



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   USDA PLAN COULD PARTIALLY LIFT SUGAR BEET BAN

SOURCE:  The Associated Press, USA

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jeXCGKLkg2YtQtBkl5X3DsoJ235A?docId=81e756ee7866466f84a6f2ede93880ee

DATE:    10.11.2010

SUMMARY: "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. [...] Frank Jenkins, of the Connecticut-based Jenkins Sugar Group, said if farmers can't plant genetically modified seeds in the spring it would result in a 20 percent reduction in the nation's sugar supply, and the U.S. would have to allow imports of refined and raw sugar to avoid a big jump in prices."

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USDA PLAN COULD PARTIALLY LIFT SUGAR BEET BAN

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.

Frank Jenkins, of the Connecticut-based Jenkins Sugar Group, said if farmers can't plant genetically modified seeds in the spring it would result in a 20 percent reduction in the nation's sugar supply, and the U.S. would have to allow imports of refined and raw sugar to avoid a big jump in prices.

"There is not enough (sugar) stockpiled at this time to preclude this from having a very significant impact," Jenkins said.

The price of refined sugar has jumped from 24.5 cents two years ago to 55 cents, and he said consumers would likely feel future increases.

The USDA released a 365-page preliminary report last week, suggesting farmers be allowed to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets under a closely monitored permit process intended to prevent contamination of other crops. Monitoring by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was one of three options included in the report, and the one preferred by federal officials.

Another was to do nothing and let the ban remain in place until the environmental impact study is done ? a move industry officials said would be devastating. Duane Grant, chairman of the board of the Boise, Idaho-based Snake River Sugar Co., said farmers are concerned there won't be enough conventional seed available to plant a sugar beet crop next year. If the matter drags on too long, some farmers could decide to just plant another crop.

"If that happens it would be a disaster in the sugar beet industry," said Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugar Beet Growers Association. "That is unacceptable."

The third option would be partial deregulation with cultivation of sugar beets allowed under the supervision of Monsanto and German-based seed developer KWS SAAT Ag. The USDA issued last week's preliminary report in response to the two companies' request for partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets.

But Lyndsay Cole, an APHIS spokeswoman, said the companies had not explained in their request what conditions they would impose on growers or how they would monitor them.

Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher said the company is looking at the federal report, which he described in an e-mail as "encouraging, as it indicates that USDA is actively considering these issues." He did not address a question about how the company would monitor growers.

KWS SAAT Ag did not immediately respond to a message left for comment.

The USDA has established a 30-day period for public input on the plan, which ends Dec. 6. Cole said she didn't have a timeline for a final decision, but federal officials are aware of growers' concerns about having time to plan. She said the agency does want to make sure there's adequate time for public input.

Markwart said his group and producers are still sifting through the USDA's lengthy report but will establish a position and make recommendations on it. Still, he expressed concern that it's getting late for farmers to plan for next year. Companies usually begin taking seed orders around Thanksgiving.

Grant said sugar beet growers in his cooperative are relying on APHIS to make a decision in time. Snake River has about 1,000 growers in Idaho, Washington and Oregon who produce about 20 percent of the nation's beet sugar.

"Growers need to know whether they will be able to plant sugar beets or plant something else," Grant said. "Assuming APHIS can continue to perform their function in a timely manner, we should have a decision on the ability to plant prior to the planting season."

It's not clear how long farmers would be willing to wait and risk a shortage of conventional seed.

Sugar beets are planted on more than 1 million acres in 10 states, with Minnesota, North Dakota and Idaho being the top producers.

George Kimbrell, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups whose lawsuit led to the order to halt planting, said it also hadn't had a chance to review the USDA proposal but "certainly will be providing comment within the 30-day period." 



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   CRYSTAL BOSS SAYS APHIS DRAFT WELCOME, BUT WON?T SETTLE BIOTECH BEET ISSUE

SOURCE:  Agweek, USA

AUTHOR:  Mikkel Pates

URL:     http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/17456/

DATE:    09.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Officials of American Crystal Sugar Co. say the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s proposed options of allowing Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2011 is not unexpected, but likely faces legal challenges. So the industry must continue to try to cope with a potential ban goes in 2011. ?We?re not going to sit here and hope for the right result,? says David Berg, president and chief executive officer for the Moorhead-based beet cooperative. ?We?re going to work to prepare ourselves for different eventualities.?"

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CRYSTAL BOSS SAYS APHIS DRAFT WELCOME, BUT WON?T SETTLE BIOTECH BEET ISSUE

MOORHEAD, Minn. ? Officials of American Crystal Sugar Co. say the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s proposed options of allowing Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2011 is not unexpected, but likely faces legal challenges. So the industry must continue to try to cope with a potential ban goes in 2011.

?We?re not going to sit here and hope for the right result,? says David Berg, president and chief executive officer for the Moorhead-based beet cooperative. ?We?re going to work to prepare ourselves for different eventualities.?

Berg says his company must be ready with conventional seed and conventional chemicals if genetically modified beets aren?t available. He says, however, that his company hasn?t ?bought anything or contracted for anything? in the way of seed or chemicals needed for a conventional crop.

On Nov. 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a press release about a ?draft environmental assessment,? which has three options that include ?partial deregulation or some similar administrative action? to allow the use of Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2011. The release makes clear that if this is the final recommendation, commercial planting would be allowed under ?carefully-tailored interim measures? proposed by APHIS. The draft becomes official when it is published in the Nov. 4 Federal Register.

The APHIS announcement is in response to a request from Monsanto Co. and KWS SAAT AG, to allow the planting of the genetically engineered plants. Roundup Ready beets are tolerant to glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide.

Industry in limbo

USDA?s earlier approval of the technology was challenged in court by the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club and organic seed groups. These groups successfully argued the USDA improperly didn?t conduct a full environmental impact statement. The EIS will be completed by the end of May 2012, but the challenge has put the industry in limbo.

Regarding the commercial planting decision, Michael Gregoire, deputy administrator for APHIS? biotechnology regulatory services, says, ?APHIS takes its role in protecting plant health very seriously and is well aware of the importance of this decision for sugar beet growers and processors.?

The APHIS draft environmental assessment evaluates three options. The agency?s preferred alternative would allow production of Roundup Ready beets under ?strict APHIS permit conditions,? the release says.

The agency?s preferred option is No. 2 of the three. The three options:

n Deny the request for partial deregulation or any similar administrative action. This would halt authorization of production until APHIS completes the EIS.

n Authorize the production of Roundup-Ready sugar beets under APHIS permit subject to mandatory conditions to prevent any potential plant pest risks.

n Grant the petition request for partial deregulation to allow the production of Roundup Ready sugar beets. Here, APHIS would grant the petition for partial deregulation and no longer regulate Roundup Ready sugar beets. The cultivation would be allowed under conditions imposed by Monsanto/KWS through technology stewardship agreements.

Of alternative No. 2, the agency says, ?The mandatory conditions outlined in the permits would work to minimize any potential for the escape and dissemination of plant pests and the likelihood of environmental impacts of concern raised by the Court.?

A draft environmental assessment will be open for comment for 30 days. APHIS will review the comments before Dec. 6 to determine whether to grant the supplemental request for partial deregulation.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   USDA PROPOSES SPECIAL PERMITS FOR BIO-BEETS

SOURCE:  Capital Press, USA

AUTHOR:  Dave Wilkins

URL:     http://www.capitalpress.com/content/dw-beet-assessment-111210

DATE:    11.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Sugar beet producers will have to hire third-party field inspectors and meet other strict requirements if they want to grow Roundup Ready beets next year, according to a USDA proposal. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released a draft environmental assessment Nov. 2 in which it proposed that the sugar beet industry be allowed to continue growing and processing Roundup Ready beets, but only under special permits that require close monitoring and record keeping."

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USDA PROPOSES SPECIAL PERMITS FOR BIO-BEETS

Proposal requires third-party inspection, up to three years of field monitoring

Sugar beet producers will have to hire third-party field inspectors and meet other strict requirements if they want to grow Roundup Ready beets next year, according to a USDA proposal.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released a draft environmental assessment Nov. 2 in which it proposed that the sugar beet industry be allowed to continue growing and processing Roundup Ready beets, but only under special permits that require close monitoring and record keeping.

The 336-page document was prepared in response to a request from Monsanto Co. and KWS SAAT AG for partial deregulation of the genetically engineered crop following a federal court ruling this summer that returned the crop to regulated status.

Under USDA's preferred alternative, special permits would be issued to sugar beet processors or their grower-owned cooperatives.

Permit holders would be required to hire third-party inspectors and auditors who would be trained by APHIS to ensure compliance with all permit requirements.

Field surveys would be required to identify and eliminate any "bolters" from commercial root crop fields before they produce pollen or set seed.

Fields would have to be monitored for three years following harvest and any volunteer plants destroyed. If the same fields were used for other crops during the three-year monitoring period, the crops would have to be "visually distinct" from sugar beets or the fields left fallow, according to the proposal.

Seed companies would also have to meet several special permit requirements, including maintaining a 4-mile separation distance between Roundup Ready fields and all other related commercial seed crops such as table beets and Swiss chard.

USDA deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets in 2005, but a ruling by a federal judge this summer returned the crop to regulated status.

The agency is working on a full environmental impact statement as ordered by the court, but the document isn't expected to be completed before May 2012.

The crop can't be grown commercially without a partial deregulation or other interim measures being taken by USDA.

The American Sugarbeet Growers Association is in the process of reviewing the draft environmental assessment, executive vice president Luther Markwart said Nov. 5.

The USDA will accept comments on the draft document until Dec. 6. Industry officials hope the agency will issue a final decision soon afterward.

"They need to do it expeditiously," Markwart said. "Our growers need to order seed in early December if they are going to get it in time for planting next spring."

Other alternatives considered by APHIS in the environmental assessment include taking no action until a full impact statement is completed or granting a partial deregulation as requested by Monsanto.

Comments on the draft document may be mailed to Docket No. APHIS-2010-0047, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238 or online at www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2010-0047




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