U.S. Sugar Production May Be Cut 20% by Beet Ruling, Agency Economist Says

U.S. sugar output will be cut by about 20 percent next year if farmers can’t plant genetically modified beets, as ruled by a federal judge in August, the Department of Agriculture said in a court filing.

Beets, which account for about 44 percent of U.S. sugar output, would lose 1.627 million short tons of production without a supply of genetically modified seeds produced by Monsanto Co., USDA economist Daniel Colacicco said in an analysis made for the case. The department’s 10-year production forecast made in February was for a crop of 7.649 million tons next year.

“The limited availability of conventional seed will severely restrict plantings of sugar beets in 2011,” Colacicco wrote in his report. The impact of smaller beet-sugar supply would be “severe,” although it may be mitigated by imports and substitution of other sweeteners, he wrote.

About 95 percent of the U.S. sugar-beet crop is genetically modified, according to the document.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White revoked the government’s approval of the seeds, saying the USDA hadn’t properly considered the potential environmental impact.

The Agriculture Department said Sept. 1 that it plans to have interim rules governing genetically modified sugar beets in place by the end of the year.

The case is Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, 10-04038, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net

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