The US Department of Agriculture has cleared the way for farmers to plant a type of genetically modified sugar beet resistant to the herbicide Round-Up.

The US Department of Agriculture has cleared the way for farmers to plant a type of genetically modified sugar beet resistant to the herbicide Round-Up. Oregon farmers are among the largest producers of sugar beet seeds.

Monsanto is the company that engineered these sugar beets. More than five years ago, the company first petitioned the USDA to allow farmers to plant the the crops in their fields. Not all farmers were sold on the idea. Many worried about the possibility of cross-pollination and other unintended effects. When the USDA approved Monsanto's request at that time, several food safety groups filed suit alleging the government failed to complete the required environmental assessments. Federal judge Jeffrey White agreed, and in 2010 he barred the planting of modified beets pending an environmental review.

The USDA says it's now completed that review and determined that Round-up Ready sugar beets aren't likely to pose a risk to crops, other plants or plant products. The agency says this means farmers and distributors can now move and plant the beets without further regulatory oversite.

Paul Atchitoff is with Earthjustice. He's one of the attorneys who sued the USDA. He says his group is still reviewing the environmental impact statement and deciding what to do next.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.