Study: Genetically modified beets are crucial to producers’ profit margins

Jun 17, 2013

University of Wyoming researchers have found that Wyoming sugar beet producers would stand to lose about 12 percent of profits if they were no longer able to grow genetically modified beets.

Agricultural economics research scientist Brian Lee was the primary investigator for the study.

“There’s research out there that suggests that Roundup Ready Sugar Beets can produce anywhere from five to 15 percent higher yields than conventional beets. So, we kind of used that as a basis for our analysis and changed that to a dollar figure.”

Almost all Wyoming sugar beet producers grow Roundup Ready beets because they’re hardier and easier to care for. For a time, however, the FDA had partially regulated Roundup Ready beet technology because it could interfere with the genetics of organic beets through cross-pollination.

Lee says the average profitability of genetically modified sugar beets is about 813 dollars per-acre.

“Basically if roundup ready sugar beets were not available to the producer, and they went back to conventional beets, they would be out about $95 per acre.”

Lee says producers would be more likely to switch to an easier crop than to return to
conventional beet farming.

The FDA deregulated Roundup Ready beet technology last summer.

An article about Lee’s research will be published in UW’s annual Agriculture and Natural Sciences magazine, “Reflections,” this month. Copies will be available at UW and Extension facilities.