Back in 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted an environmental assessment of sugar beets that had been genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup. They concluded that the new beets would have “no significant impact” on the environment, and therefore a full environmental impact statement would not be required. With that ruling, the beets were approved for widespread planting.
The new beets have been popular with farmers, and plantings have soared. But watchdog groups like the Center for Food Safety are not convinced that the Department of Agriculture should have approved the new beets so quickly. They have challenged the Department of Agriculture in court, and recently they won the first round; a Federal District Court judge in San Francisco has ruled that the Agriculture Department should have done an environmental impact statement before approving the beets for widespread planting. The judge in the case will decide on the correct course of action next month. But the plaintiffs have already said they would ask for a total ban on the biotech beets, according to an article in the New York Times this week.
Most consumers don’t seem to care; sugar is sugar.