On October 11, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) produced a draft Environmental Impact Statement considering alternatives in response to Monsanto/KWS SAAT AG request for a determination of non-regulated status of its event H7-1 sugar beets. This sugar beet cultivar is genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate herbicide, or "Roundup Ready (RR)." The regulation status of these sugar beets has been extensively litigated in California and District of Columbia federal courts.
APHIS originally deregulated H7-1 sugar beets in 2005. APHIS prepared the draft EIS to comply with a September 2009 court order that APHIS should have prepared an EIS before making a determination on the nonregulated status of the beets. The APHIS press release regarding the EIS states that "On July 29, 2010, Monsanto and KWS SAAT AG submitted to APHIS a supplemental request to amend the petition requesting partial deregulation of RR sugar beets to authorize continued cultivation subject to carefully tailored interim measures and conditions.
In response to that supplemental petition, APHIS prepared an environmental assessment and made a determination that it is appropriate to partially deregulate H7-1 sugar beets root crop production activities if grown under specific mandatory conditions." According to the EIS Executive Summary: "The purpose of this EIS is to present analysis of alternative responses to the 2003 petition [from Monsanto/KWS SAAT AG] in a manner that comprehensively informs the decision maker of the potential impacts to the human environment from the selection of a given alternative." (p. v). The three alternatives considered in the EIS include:
The EIS noted that Huron County, Michigan has ten percent of harvested cropland in sugar beet production. (Table 5-2, p. 658). The EIS analyzed the alternatives, the affected environment, environmental consequences, and cumulative effects of the sugar beets. Regulations.gov states that it will accept comments on the EIS until December 13, 2011.
USDA APHIS also posted a Plant Pest Risk Assessment for Event H7-1 Sugar Beet. The Assessment concludes:
"APHIS has prepared this plant pest risk assessment in order to determine if event H7-1 sugar beet is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk under full deregulation. Based on the information provided by the applicant, consideration of current scientific literature and the lack of plant pest risk from the inserted genetic material, weedy characteristics, atypical responses to disease or plant pests in the field, effects on non-targets or beneficial organisms in the agro-ecosystem, and horizontal gene transfer, APHIS has concluded that event H7-1 sugar beet is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk." (p. 10).