Nov. 3, 2010 /EIN Presswire/ — It looks like there’s a day of reckoning ahead for many U.S. sugar beet growers caught between USDA approval of genetically modified (GM) seeds and a court’s rejection of them.

Many groups are waging a legal battle to halt production of GM sugar beets because of concerns that the plants contaminate nearby nonbiotech crops. The modified crops have spawned “killer weeds” that have proven resistant to most herbicides, even when used in massive doses.

Yesterday, the USDA fired its latest shot in the controversy, a proposal to authorize the commercial production of the product under stricter regulations.

This is a big fight for the sugar beet industry since GM sugar beets now account for 95 percent of the U.S. crop.

Biotech giant Monsanto’s “herbicide tolerant” crops have been controversial since they were introduced. For some scientists, the issue was obvious: introduction of high doses of a single chemical, year after year, would result in the exact conditions needed to breed resistance. Weeds with resistant genes would be the only weeds that could survive and breed, leading to superweeds that are unaffected even by massive herbicide spraying.

Despite concerns, the USDA approved Monsanto’s seeds, farmers took them and heavy users of the crop, such as soft drink companies, became reliant on them. The industry virtually abandoned conventional sugar beets.

Sugar from sugar beets will account for about 60 percent of domestic U.S. production this year. If farmers can’t plant GM seeds next spring, U.S. sugar production will be cut by about 20 percent, according to a USDA estimate.

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