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USDA: Farmers can plant genetically modified beets

The federal government says it will allow farmers to plant genetically modified sugar beets while it finishes work on a full environmental impact statement on the beets’ effect on other crops and the environment.

Farmers had been waiting for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finish its work and made a decision about deregulation of the beets. They feared if a decision wouldn’t come in time for spring planting.

The USDA said Feb. 4 it will partially deregulate the beets while it finishes the study. It says the beets designed to withstand the weedkiller Roundup won’t jeopardize other crops if planted under certain conditions.

Paul Atchitoff of Earthjustice says farmers will just do whatever they want after Friday’s decision and his group will file a lawsuit to stop the partial deregulation.

Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association Executive Director Mark Duffin could not be reached immediately.

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