Roundup Ready sugar beets will be approved for planting by day's end, according to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
The Montana senator said shortly after noon Friday that U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack notified him of the approval.
The Friday approval to plant is a partial deregulation allowing beets to be planted while USDA completes a court-ordered environmental impact statement on the crop. Organic seed companies sued USDA over the biotech beets, arguing that cross pollination threats hadn't been considered before Roundup Ready beets were approved a few years ago.
The biotech beets have been engineered to survive sprayings of the herbicide Roundup. That trait, according to farmers, allows the crop to grow strong as weeds in the field are killed off. Better harvest and lower production costs have made the beets very popular.
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Last week, Baucus notified Vilsack that delaying approval of the biotech crop would jeopardize Montana's economy.
Montana farmers plant roughly 31,000 acres of beets each year. Sugar from the beets is refined in Billings, where the industry is multimillion piece of the local economy.
Sugar beets account for half the sugar produced in the United States. Roundup Ready beets are what 95 percent of farmers plant.