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GE Sugar: Coming to a Store Near You in 2008

GE Sugar: Coming to a Store Near You in 2008

GE sugar beets will not be labeled as such and unless you buy organic, you will probably never know if they are used in products you buy.

December 3, 2007 —

In 2008, genetically engineered (GE) sugar will be available in your local grocer, deli, or supermarket.  Six years after Monsanto pulled its Roundup Ready beets due to pressure from consumer groups and hesitancy from corporations, American Crystal, Kellog, and other sugar companies have announced plans to use GE sugar beets. 

Sugar beets are grown on more than 1 million acres in the western half of the United States.  This is compared to 90 million acres of corn and 70 million acres of soybeans.

Activists oppose the use of genetically engineered food because of contamination to water and soil.  Monsanto, who produces the GE sugar beets, also markets Roundup herbicide.  The GE crops are designed to resist Roundup and sugar beet farmers have reportedly been told that they can spray Roundup five times each year.  Some activists claim that weeds have become resistant to Roundup, causing farmers to spray it more frequently and at higher levels, thus increasing the environmental impact.

Sugar beet farmers who intend to plant the GE crop explain that because the new sugar beet is less affected by Roundup, they will save the money and expand their operations.  Unlike some other agricultural sectors, sugar farmers are open to the GE beets – called Roundup Ready beets – due to high weed problems. 

In 2001, Hershey and Mars among other companies, balked at using GE sugar beets because they feared consumer complaints.  Now, however, companies claim that “most consumers are not concerned about biotech.”  Yet, consumer groups such as the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) have long opposed the use of GE food and hope to pressure Hershey and others to avoid the sugar beets. 

These sugar beets will not be labeled as GE (similar to GE corn and GE soy).  The European Union has not approved the use of GE sugar beets for human consumption.

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