|Another advocacy group, Citizens for Health, has launched an online campaign to warn consumers about the dangers of genetically engineered sugar beets in food products. The campaign is particularly aimed at several large firms, including Hershey's, M&M Mars, and the company mentioned in the intro, American Crystal Sugar. According to Citizens for Health, these companies in 2001 pledged not to use sugar from genetically engineered sugar beets in their products. However, with Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beet now allegedly ready for planting, these companies pledges have not been renewed, said the advocacy group.
The group fears that the use of sugar beet seeds that have built-in resistance to the Monsanto's Roundup herbicide could create new and unpredictable health and environmental risks.
American Crystal Sugar confirmed that there had been no planting of GE sugar beet seeds yet. However, the company was unable to comment further. Sugar beets are grown on about 5 665 million square meters (1.4 million acres) by about 12,000 farmers in the United States, mainly in northern states from Oregon to Michigan, according to figures published in Capital Press Agriculture Weekly.
Although a minor crop compared with corn and soybeans, sugar beets account for about half the US sugar supply, with the rest coming from sugar cane. In the same context, farmers, food safety advocates, and conservation groups filed a suit in the federal court on 23 January 2008 in San Francisco, challenging the deregulation of "Roundup Ready" sugar beets by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
According to Citizens for Health (take a look at their website, quite informative, plus you can take action as well - see at the end of this diary), as these sugars are found in hundreds of everyday food products, such as candies, cereals, and cakes,
"the infiltration of GE sugar beets could represent a significant alteration of our food supply".
Well, look no further than Japan.
Japan's leading chocolate maker Meiji Seika has recalled a range of confectionery products, after it was discovered that they contained a novel sweetener made with an unapproved genetically modified enzyme.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace is now calling on the company to issue a list of other firms that are buying the sweetener developed by Meiji for use in their products. Sweeteners are seeing booming demand around the world as consumers seek to avoid sugar for weight loss reasons. Selling sweeteners made with GM ingredients is a different story however. Japan has approved 36 different varieties of GM corn for human consumption as well as other food ingredients. But Greenpeace claims labeling laws are weak and confusing to consumers. Under Japanese food labeling laws, only the top three ingredients by weight in a food product are required to be labeled if they are genetically modified, and then, only if they are above a 5 per cent threshold. Highly processed products such as soy oil are not required to be labeled. The GF2 sweetener is described as a sugar alternative and targeted at the weight loss foods market.
In Europe, a request for placing products produced from sugar beet H7-1 on the market was submitted by KWS SAAT AG, a German plant breeding company and Monsanto Europe to the authorities of The United Kingdom on 12 November 2004. I haven't been able to get an update from that company.
Chocolate or biscuits, sweets or ice cream - most of our sweet snacks are made with the help of genetic engineering. However, GM content from genetically modified crops is kept below labeling thresholds, and certain additives made with GM microorganisms do not require labeling.
In an interesting new development, a coalition of ethical stock market investors have called on 63 US food, beverage and restaurant companies to stop using genetically modified sugar beet. The coalition of nearly 300 faith-based investors with over $100bn in invested capital, which goes under the name of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), has launched a web-based campaign against the planting of GM sugar beets from the April 2008 planting season.
The campaign, claims that allowing GM sugar into the US food chain would affect thousands of the most widely consumed products in the US. Too right!
What you can do: apart from registering your angst at Citizens for Health, visit the ICCR's website and take action, and you can also join OCA's Campaign to Mobilize One Million Consumers to End Monsanto's Global Corporate Terrorism here!
This is not a very well known fact: prior to being the Supreme Court Judge who put GW Bush in office, Clarence Thomas was Monsanto's lawyer. I rest my case.