Sugar Beets


The United States imports 10% of its sugar from other countries, while the remaining 90% is extracted from domestically grown sugar beet and sugarcane. Of the domestically grown sugar crops, half of the extracted sugar is derived from sugar beet, and the other half is from sugarcane.

After deregulation in 2005, glyphosate-resistant sugar beet was extensively adopted in the United States. 95% of sugar beet acres in the US were planted with glyphosate-resistant seed in 2011.Sugar beets that are herbicide-tolerant have been approved in Australia, Canada, Colombia, EU, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, and USA.

The food products of sugar beets are refined sugar and molasses. Pulp remaining from the refining process is used as animal feed. The sugar produced from GM sugarbeets is highly refined and contains no DNA or protein—it is just sucrose, the same as sugar produced from non-GM sugarbeets.

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On Friday, June 1, 2012, the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it has completed the final assessment of Monsanto’s genetically engineered sugar beets that were modified to withstand continued applications of the Monsanto’s flagship herbicide, Roundup.  Since every application for deregulation of a genetically engineered crop has so far been approved, it surprised no one when the agency again recommended a complete deregulation.

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Genetically engineered sugar beets have been grown commercially in the US since 2008. That year about half of the crop was genetically engineered. The industry projected that about 90 percent of sugar beets would be genetically engineered by 2009. So, with 50% of the sugar supply from sugar beets, most of us have probably already been exposed to genetically engineered sugar.

GE sugar beets are dangerous for people, pollinators and the environment. The risks of GE sugar beets are enhanced by the fact that they contaminate non-GMO crops. Just to name one example, GE sugar beet specklings were inexplicably found in potting soil mix sold to gardeners at a landscape supply business.

GE sugar beet production significantly reduces the number of bees and butterflies in beet fields.

GE sugar beets are designed to withstand strong doses of Monsanto’s controversial broad spectrum Roundup herbicide. Studies indicate farmers planting Roundup Ready crops spray large amounts of the herbicide, contaminating both soil and water. Farmers planting GE sugar beets are told they may be able to apply the herbicide up to five times per year.

Roundup, also known as glyphosate, is linked to cancer. Monsanto has successfully lobbied to increase human exposure to its carcinogen. When it first commercialized its Roundup Ready crops, Monsanto applied for and was granted an increase in the level of herbicide residue allowed to remain on the crop.


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