Food Safety Fact Sheet
SUGAR IN THE FOODS WE EAT may soon come from genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets unless we act now. Western farmers in the U.S. are poised to plant their first season of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® (RR), herbicide-tolerant, GE sugar beets. Over half the sugar in processed foods comes from sugar beets and the rest comes from sugar cane.1 Both sugars are often combined in products and not listed separately on labels. Once food producers start using GE
potentially irreversible human and environ- mental effects. Monsanto’s RR sugar beet has been engineered to withstand large doses of the herbicide, Roundup, and its active ingredient, glyphosate.
WHERE ARE SUGAR BEETS GROWN? Sugar beets (Beta vulgaris L.) flourish in temperate climates. Minnesota, Idaho, North Dakota, Michigan, and California are the five top sugar beet growing states. Sugar beets are also grown in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Washington
beet sugar in cereals, breads, baby foods, candies, and other products, we will not
Examples of sugar-containing products that could be affected.
and Wyoming.4 More than seventy percent of all sugar beet seeds are grown in Oregon’s
know if we are eating GE sugar because GE ingredients are not labeled. The only way to avoid eating GE beet sugar will be to buy organic foods and foods containing 100% cane sugar or evaporated cane juice.
Willamette Valley.5 The Valley serves as the prime seed producing region for other Beta-related species, including several varieties of chard and table beets, and it is home to many organic seed producers.
In January 2008, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds, challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to deregu- late2 RR, GE sugar beets.3 The lawsuit seeks to reverse the approval of GE sugar beets and to force USDA to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The EIS process mandates a thorough environmental, health, and economic assessment of the impacts of planting GE sugar beets, with full public participation. Our lawsuit seeks to prohibit any plant- ing, sale or dissemination of RR sugar beets, pending USDA compliance with applicable laws. Unless the judge in this case orders farmers to stop planting RR sugar beets, foods containing sugar from GE beets could reach supermarkets as early as 2009.
WHAT ARE GE SUGAR BEETS? In sharp contrast to traditional, selective breeding methods, genetic engineering creates new life forms in the laboratory that never would be created in nature. GE technology synthe- sizes novel organisms by inserting the genetic material (DNA) of bacteria, viruses, and other organisms from one species into the living cells of another often completely unrelated species. The end result is the expression of a new trait, most often her- bicide tolerance. This unprecedented breach in the species boundary can cause unpredictable, subtle, unknown, and
WHY THE CONCERN?
Allowable herbicide residues on sugar beets have
substantially increased In December 1998, the USDA approved Monsanto’s first GE sugar beet for commercial planting and sale. Several months later, at Monsanto’s request, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) increased the maximum allowable residues of the herbicide, glyphosate, on sugar beet roots from just 0.2 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm.6 Sugar beet roots contain the sucrose extracted, refined, and processed into sugar. EPA’s policy change represents a staggering 5,000% increase in allowable toxic weed killer residues, some of which could end up in sugar. The Agency has also increased allow- able glyphosate residues on dried sugar beet pulp, a by-prod- uct of sugar processing, from 0.2ppm to 25 ppm.7 Dried sugar beet pulp is fed to dairy and beef cattle, particularly in Europe, Japan, and Korea, and it is also fed to racehorses in the U.S.8
GE crops are not proven safe for consumption
Market approval of GE crops is based upon research conduct- ed by the biotech industry alone. No long-term health studies on the effects of eating GE foods have ever been conducted by any government agency. Furthermore, new GE crops do not require approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are introduced into the food supply. A GE plant is considered “substantially equivalent,” and allowed to
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