Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ruled once and for all to allow unrestricted planting of Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets. This announcement puts an end to a long court battle to force the USDA to uphold the law -- a battle that some anti-GMO advocates might call Pyrrhic.
We covered the GMO sugar fracas extensively last month, but here’s a quickie review: The USDA was forced to perform a court-ordered environmental review of the GMO sugar beet seed and to restrict planting by farmers until the review was finished. As it happens, this was a review that the USDA had failed to complete back in 2008 when it had allowed farmers to begin using the seed. This failure was in violation of law and was the grounds for the court’s intervention after several consumer groups filed suit. And though the agency flouted a court-ordered halt to planting out of concern about a sugar shortage, they did ultimately comply with the judge’s order to finish a full review.
The ruling came out of the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the division in charge of regulating genetically modified food. And, as if to stress the fact that the process is complete and GMO sugar beets are totally in the clear, the USDA declared in the announcement that “this is APHIS’ final regulatory determination in this matter.” So back off, people!
The review was released last month so there was little that was surprising in the final announcement. But the language that APHIS used this week explains a lot about federal policy on GMOs. As the agency put it: