Thursday, February 14, 2008

Enjoy those sweets while you can!

This Valentine’s Day, as you open up that heart-shaped box of candy and taste those chocolate covered crèmes, nougats and truffles, enjoy them. And unless you’re one of the few who doesn’t eat chocolate, there’s no denying that sugar is the taste of Valentine’s Day.

Sadly, biotech companies want to take the sweets we know and love away from us.

Sugar in our Valentine’s candy (and our cereal, granola bars, crackers, bread – anything that contains sugar) comes from several sources, including sugar beets. In fact, about half of the sugar used in the U.S. is beet sugar (the other half is cane sugar). In the next few weeks, sugar beet seed farmers throughout the U.S. will be considering what type of sugar beets to plant, and food companies will have to decide what types of sugar they will accept.

A new option available this year is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet, genetically engineered to survive direct application of the weed killer, Roundup. Unlike traditional breeding, genetic engineering creates new life forms that would never occur in nature, creating new and unpredictable health and environmental risks. To create GE crops, genes from bacteria, viruses, plants, animals, and even humans, have already been inserted into our common food crops, like corn, soy, and canola. Now the biotech industry has taken aim at our sugar.

At the request of Monsanto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increased the allowable amount of glyphosate residues on sugar beetroots by a whopping 5000%. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, sugar is extracted from the beet’s root. The inevitable result is more glyphosate pesticide in our sugar. This is not good news for those who want to enjoy their sweet treats without the threat of ingesting toxic weed killer.
In 2001, Hershey’s, M&M Mars, and American Crystal Sugar told consumers they would not use genetically engineered sugar. But now that sugar beets are close to being planted commercially, they have made no such assurances.