Fifty to sixty percent of US sugar comes from sugar beets—and almost all of that comes from a genetically modified (GM) version of the plant. Sugar is in a good chunk of our foods, even savory ones like soups and bread. With no requirements in our country that GM foods be labeled, you may be consuming a lot more GM sugar that you think.
As detailed in the April/May 2012 “Frankenfood” issue of the Green American, a number of health concerns have been raised about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and most of them center around how little we know about the long-term effects of consuming these creations.
“GMOs are being put in American food without long-term testing and without labeling,” says Elizabeth O’Connell, Green America’s GMO Inside campaign director. “The American public should have the right to an informed choice on whether or not to eat GM food, as they do in more than 60 other countries.”
You may already be aware of many of the many health issues around GMOs and sugar. What you may not be aware of are the sordid events that led to a marriage between the two, as this plant rose above the law.
Regulating the GM Sugar Beet
In March of 2005, genetically modified sugar beets appeared on the US market for the first time. Crafted by Monsanto to include a gene from a soil bacterium, this GM beet was able to withstand a copious onslaught of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (glyphosate). The agricultural industry could spray as much of the weed-killer as it wanted without impacting crops.
Today, Monsanto’s GM sugar beets make up 95 percent of the US crop, having been planted year after year despite a US District Court injunction against planting and even a ruling by US District Court Judge Jeffrey White that the 2011 crop be destroyed due to illegal deregulation. The story of how Monsanto raised its product above the law is a case study of the power of the biotech industry over federal regulators.
Green America: April/May 2013: The Skinny on Alternative Sweeteners