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POLICY & REGULATION: American Crystal sues USDA over new rules on Roundup Ready beets



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUES USDA OVER NEW RULES ON ROUNDUP READY BEETS

SOURCE:  Grand Forks Herald, USA

AUTHOR:  Stephen J. Lee

URL:     http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/193766/group/homepage/

DATE:    16.02.2011

SUMMARY: "In the latest salvo in a long and complicated court dance that began three years ago, American Crystal and other beet sugar processors filed a lawsuit Feb. 7 in federal court in Washington seeking to lift some recent rules imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture even as it approved Roundup Ready beets. [...] the new ruling also includes new rules about the conditions under which the beets are planted, according to American Crystal. Those rules are too costly and go beyond what federal law should require, says American Crystal and other sugar processors."

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AMERICAN CRYSTAL SUES USDA OVER NEW RULES ON ROUNDUP READY BEETS

Leaders brief shareholders in private meetings

Corporate leaders of American Crystal Sugar Co. met behind closed doors with shareholders Wednesday morning in Grand Forks and Fargo to talk about the ongoing battle over genetically modified sugar beets.

CEO David Berg talked to the shareholders but had to leave town after the meetings and wasn?t available for comment Wednesday evening, said Jeff Schweitzer, American Crystal spokesman. Because the issue involves litigation right now, only Berg is speaking for the Moorhead-based co-op, Schweitzer said. Wednesday?s meetings were open only to American Crystal?s about 2,750 shareholders.

But it?s clear what the general topic was.

In the latest salvo in a long and complicated court dance that began three years ago, American Crystal and other beet sugar processors filed a lawsuit Feb. 7 in federal court in Washington seeking to lift some recent rules imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture even as it approved Roundup Ready beets.

On Feb. 4, USDA?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service authorized the planting this spring of Monsanto?s Roundup Ready beets. That was a response to a ruling last summer by a San Francisco federal judge that USDA take over again the regulation of Roundup Ready beets, including doing long-term study into the environmental impacts. Roundup Ready beets were deregulated in 2005.

The judge?s ruling last summer did not do what the Center for Food Safety had sought: a ban on the Roundup Ready beets until USDA?s study would be completed, in two years or so.

Such an outright ban would cripple the sugar beet industry and raise sugar prices, which already are at 40-year highs, sugar interests say.

Since the first lawsuit in California in January 2008, environmental and organic crop activists have been pushing to outlaw the use of beet seed that is genetically modified to be resistant to a common herbicide, known best as the Monsanto brand, Roundup Ready.

The past five years, such beets have made things much better for growers and beet sugar processors, because raising such beets and getting top yields is easier and less expensive when the simple application of the inexpensive Roundup will kill weeds without hurting the beets.

The Feb. 4 ruling by USDA that planting can go on while the Environmental Impact Statement process is ongoing was excellent, according to American Crystal and other sugar processors, in a statement from the Sugar Industry Biotech Council posted last week on American Crystal?s website.

Except, that is, that the new ruling also includes new rules about the conditions under which the beets are planted, according to American Crystal.

Those rules are too costly and go beyond what federal law should require, says American Crystal and other sugar processors.

?The sugar beet industry appreciates (USDA?s) leadership and USDA?s thorough scientific review reflected in this partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets while work on the EIS continues,? says the statement from sugar?s Biotech Council.

But to clear up any uncertainty about what APHIS? rules mean, the sugar beet industry filed suit seeking to get the federal court to throw out some of APHIS? conditions for planting the beets because they ?pose an unnecessary burden,? according to the Biotech Council.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, and organic growers, including the Organic Seed Alliance, say that planting Roundup Ready beets and other crops will breed weeds resistant to the herbicide and contaminate organic crops with the genetic modification.

American Crystal grows about half the nation?s sugar beets, nearly all of it in fields in the Red River Valley, processing them in five factories in East Grand Forks, Crookston, Moorhead, Drayton, N.D., and Hillsboro, N.D.

Roundup Ready beets first were approved by USDA in 2005, and the past three years have been used increasingly by American Crystal growers. Last year, 98 percent or more of the 420,000 acres harvested were Roundup Ready beets.

It?s worked well, with average yields increasing; this past fall, a record yield of about 27 tons per acre was dug and growers will have their best year ever, averaging $1,500 per acre in gross payments through the cooperative, based on preliminary estimates by the company.

Berg told the Herald earlier that if Roundup Ready beets were not approved for next year, it would be difficult and costly to round up enough conventional seed to get in the crop and to grow it.

USDA also recently approved the use of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed, a decision also opposed by the Center for Food Safety and organic growers. Last week, USDA also approved the planting of a genetically modified corn to be used only for biofuel use.

But in approving such crops, USDA has taken new ground in regulating the burgeoning field of genetically modified crops by requiring, for example, that growers prevent the plant pollen from blowing into organic crop fields, according to news reports.

However, according to American Crystal, that shouldn?t apply to beets.

?Sugar beets are unique in that the commercial crop grown for sugar production does not produce seed,? says the online statement from the Biotech Council posted by American Crystal. ?Since the (Roundup Ready) crop was deregulated in 2005, there has been no evidence of harm.?

In fact, American Crystal argues that the use of Roundup Ready beets reduces greenhouse gases by requiring fewer trips across the field to combat weeds.



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   STATEMENT BY THE SUGAR INDUSTRY BIOTECH COUNCIL ON USDA?S APHIS ANNOUNCEMENT FOR PARTIAL DEREGULATION OF ROUNDUP READY SUGAR BEETS

SOURCE:  Sugar Industry Biotech Council, USA

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://db.zs-intern.de/uploads/1297938975-SIBCStatement.pdf

DATE:    08.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Because the sugar beet industry feels that a few of the mandatory measures required by APHIS go beyond what is required under federal law, the lawsuit also asks the Court to determine that certain of the interim measures adopted by APHIS impose an unnecessary burden. This lawsuit does not reflect a lack of respect or dissatisfaction with the significant work that USDA has undertaken to address matters that are critical to our industry, including the opportunity to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets this spring."

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STATEMENT BY THE SUGAR INDUSTRY BIOTECH COUNCIL ON USDA?S APHIS ANNOUNCEMENT FOR PARTIAL DEREGULATION OF ROUNDUP READY SUGAR BEETS

On February 4, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture?s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) authorized planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets. USDA APHIS? decision included mandatory interim measures for planting Roundup Ready sugar beet crops, including the spring 2011 crop, while APHIS prepares a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready sugar beets.

The sugar beet industry appreciates the Secretary?s leadership and USDA?s thorough scientific review reflected in this partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets while work on the EIS continues. To address the uncertainty created by the Center for Food Safety?s vows to overturn APHIS? determination, the sugar beet industry has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that, in part, seeks a declaratory judgment that APHIS? action fulfills the requirements of federal law.

Because the sugar beet industry feels that a few of the mandatory measures required by APHIS go beyond what is required under federal law, the lawsuit also asks the Court to determine that certain of the interim measures adopted by APHIS impose an unnecessary burden. This lawsuit does not reflect a lack of respect or dissatisfaction with the significant work that USDA has undertaken to address matters that are critical to our industry, including the opportunity to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets this spring.

Sugar beets are unique in that the commercial crop grown for sugar production does not produce seed. Since the crop was deregulated in 2005, there has been no evidence of harm. In fact, Roundup Ready sugar beets offer numerous environmental benefits. The Roundup Ready system in sugar beets requires fewer herbicide applications to effectively control weeds. Fewer trips across the field mean reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced soil erosion, reduced soil compaction and enhanced water conservation.

Sugar beets are an important crop, planted on 1.2 million acres in the United States annually and supplying half of our nation?s sugar. This important supply is essential for our food manufacturers and consumers. The value of sugar beet crops is critically important to rural communities and their economies. Roundup Ready sugar beets planted on 95 percent of all sugar beet acreage have allowed growers to control weeds ? one of their greatest challenges ? in a more environmentally sustainable way. Sugar beet growers are committed to protecting this technology now and in the future for all growers, rural communities, the North American food industry and consumers.