Sugar Beets Get Beat
The Agriculture Department has announced it will have interim rules governing genetically modified sugar beets in place by the end of the year. The news comes after a federal judge in California threw out the approval of Roundup Ready sugar beets for commercial planting in August, saying USDA had not properly considered the potential environmental impacts.
USDA has issued permits for seed producers to make plantings that would not be allowed to flower. Sugar beets account for more than half of the U.S. sugar supply, and Roundup Ready seeds were planted on about 95% of all sugar-beet acres.
USDA says it will give priority to the completion of a study on Monsanto Company’s Roundup Ready sugar-beet seeds for potential reapproval within two years. Secretary Tom Vilsack says his department is responding not only to the concerns of producers about the period during which they will have to comply with the court order, but also to USDA’s goal of "continuing efforts to enable coexistence among conventional, organic and biotechnology production systems."
Meanwhile, groups opposed to genetically modified foods have filed a lawsuit against USDA for allowing limited plantings of genetically modified sugar beets for seed. The plaintiffs, which include the Sierra Club, claim these plantings could still contaminate neighboring crops and are asking a judge to forbid planting of any altered sugar-beet plants. USDA has declined to comment on this lawsuit. —Jeanne Bernick
HIPAA Designation Important to Farm Families
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) became law in 1996. The intent of the legislation was to protect and keep an individual’s health and medical information private. However, the legislation resulted in an unintended consequence, says Gary Hachfield, an agricultural business management specialist with University of Minnesota Extension.
"The law requires that you list in your health care directive or other personal estate documents the individuals to whom you grant access to your medical information," Hachfield says. "These individuals are referred to as HIPAA designees. If their names do not appear in the documents, they cannot access your medical records or be given any information regarding your medical condition. This includes family members."
For example, a husband and wife are in an accident and neither have a health care directive or HIPAA designees. The husband is in intensive care and unconscious. The wife has minor injuries and is released. Because she is not listed as having HIPAA authority, the hospital cannot tell her anything about her husband’s condition.
The remedy is to complete or update your health care directive and list your HIPAA designees. Leave a copy on file with your doctor, clinic and hospital.
- October 2010