ally breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria, overuse of the Roundup weed killer rap- idly breeds Roundup-resistant super weeds. Agricultural experts attribute the growing epidemic of super weeds in the U.S. to a dramatic upsurge in Roundup use on the three major RR crops—soy- beans, cotton and corn. Since sugar beets are often rotated with soybeans and corn, planting RR sugar beets will likely intensify glyphosate usage, weed resistance, and the spread of super weeds. U.S. scientists have documented 9 species of glyphosate resistant weeds in 19 states, including 4 that grow sugar beets.15 be planted, if superficial company research shows that no glaring differ- ences exist between the GE plant and its conventionally-bred counterpart. This weak standard does not include testing for the presence of potential toxins, mutagens, carcinogens, immune system suppressants or new allergens created during the GE production process.9,10 Agricultural experts attribute the growing epidemic of super weeds in the U.S. to a dramat- ic upsurge in Roundup use on soybeans, cotton and corn. ▲ GE crops increase herbicide use Herbicide-tolerant crops comprise a remarkable 81% of the GE crops planted globally,11 nearly all of which are Monsanto’s RR variety. Since 1995, the year before the introduction of the first RR crop, farmers have vastly increased their use of glyphosate on three major RR crops—soybeans, corn, and cot- ton. In fact, glyphosate use on those crops rose dramatically from 7.9 million pounds in 1994 to 119.1 million pounds in 2005.12 More recently, USDA data has shown an increase in the application of more toxic and persistent herbicides such as 2,4- D on soybeans and atrazine on corn, in part to combat increas- ing glyphosate weed resistance.13 Contrary to claims by the biotech industry that GE crops reduce herbicide use, USDA’s own data shows the emergence of a trend towards more toxic and more frequent herbicide applications. ▲ RR crops serve as a gateway for the more toxic herbicide use As RR crop acreage and associated glyphosate use swells, so does the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds. The biotech industry’s “solution” to combating super weeds is to genetical- ly engineer a new generation of plants to resist even more toxic and persistent weed killers such as 2,4-D (Dow),16 dicamba (Monsanto) or a mix of noxious herbicides.17 This short-sight- ed “solution” will undoubtedly perpetuate the pesticide tread- mill as weed resistance emerges and greater quantities of her- bicides end up in our food and waterways.
▲ GE plants contaminate conventional and organic seeds and crops Sugar beets are wind pollinated and their pollen can travel long distances. As such, GE sugar beets have the potential to cross pollinate with related Beta species such as chard and table beets, placing both conventional and organic farmers at risk of contamination.14 For farmers who sell to markets that restrict GE foods, contamination could result in substantial economic losses. Moreover, GE sugar beet pollen has the potential to contaminate entire conventional and organic seed lines of Beta crops, and within a relatively short period of time. This could result in the permanent loss of non-GE seeds and foods and put increasing control over our agricultural food production sys- tems into the hands of a few multinational corporations, such as Monsanto.
▲ GE sugar beets threaten domestic and overseas markets Genetically engineered crops cannot be contained. This was demonstrated by two recent GE contamination episodes involv- ing StarLink GE corn and LibertyLink GE rice.18 In both cases, food not approved for human consumption was mixed with conventional varieties and released into the U.S. food supply. Massive food recalls resulted, severely disrupting domestic and export markets and costing farmers and the food industry hun- dreds of millions of dollars. If commercialization of GE sugar beets occurs, a contamination episode would taint the entire U.S. sugar industry. Moreover, the unlabeled release of GE beet sugar into the market would make it increasingly difficult for producers of baby food, and the natural and organic food industries, to source non-GE sugar. Consumers would also find it hard to avoid eating products that contain GE beet sugar.
▲ RR crops promote glyphosate-resistant weeds GE sugar beets represent the fifth major RR crop approved by the USDA. Although the USDA initially approved RR alfal- fa, the courts withdrew its deregulated status in 2007, due to a successful CFS lawsuit. Just as overuse of antibiotics eventu-
Help CFS support the rights of people everywhere to obtain food free from GE contamination and the rights of farmers to grow GE-free crops. Join the CFS True Food Network to get involved: www.centerforfoodsafety.org
Shapouri, H. & M. Salassi. July (2006) The Economic Feasibility of Ethanol Production from Sugar in the United States, US Department of Agriculture. http://www.usda.gov/oce/EthanolSugarFeasibilityReport3.pdf 1
If a GE crop is deregulated, USDA considers it ready to be grown for commercial use and as far as the Agency is concerned, it will be treated no differently than crops developed using conventional breeding methods. 2
Center for Food Safety . Charles Conno , Secretary, US Department of Agriculture, No. C-08-484 (N.D. Cal. filed Jan. 23, 2008). 3
DeVuyst. C.S. & C.J. Wachenheim. (2005) “American Crystal Sugar: Genetically Enhanced Sugar beets?” Review of Agriculture Economics, Vol. 27. No. 1, Spring, pp. 105-116. 4
Hildebrant, D. (2005) “Sugarbeet production starts in Willamette
Valley,” Farm & Ranch Guide, July 7. http://www.farmandranchguide. com/articles/2005/07/07/ag_news/regional_news/news01.txt
64 Fed. Reg. 18360-18367 (April 14, 1999).
DeVuyst & Wachenheim, op. cit.
Santa Cruz County Public Health Commission, Subcommittee on Genetic Engineering. (2006) “A Report for the GE Subcommittee of the Public Health Commission,” May. www.santacruzhealth.org/ge 9
See: Freese, W. (2007) “Regulating Transgenic Crops: Is Government Up to the Task?” Food and Drug Law Institute Newsletter, Issue 1. www.fdli.org 10
Friends of the Earth International & Center for Food Safety. (2008) Who Benefits from GM Crops: The Rise in Pesticide Use, p. 6. http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/FoE%20I%20Who%20Benef 11
its%202008%20-%20Full%20Report%20FINAL%202-6-08.pdf. Ibid, pp. 8 & 11. 12
Center for Food Safety. (2007) “Comments for USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) Meeting,” August 1. 13
Center for Food Safety v. Charles Connor, op. cit.
Robinson, E. (2008) “Weed control growing much more complex, new tools coming,” Delta Farm Press, March 27. http://deltafarm- press.com/cotton/weed-control-0327/index.html 16
Friends of the Earth International & Center for Food Safety. (2008) op. cit., pp. 10-11. 17
See: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/Contamination% 20episodes%20fact%20sheet.pdf 18