Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Beet Beat

There has been sugar from genetically modified sugar beets in your Hersheys bars for nearly three years now. And lest you Mars Bars eaters think you're off the hook, they've got GMO sugar in them, too. Though the sugar industry says that since the sugar doesn't contain any DNA, just sucrose, there's nothing to worry about. The candy people themselves aren't saying anything, hoping that the issue will just go away.

The sugar beet

The reason I know this is because there was a lawsuit filed last week by a consortium of organic-seed growers, organic farmers, and environmental and consumer groups against the US Dept. of Agriculture for deregulating the herbicide-tolerant "Roundup Ready" sugar beet seeds developed by Monsanto (read a summary I wrote at

Table beets

You may be saying, with good reason, "Why should I care? I don't eat candy bars." And you'd have a point. Except that the Willamette Valley is the primary source of sugar beet seeds in the country, and those Roundup Ready seeds are being planted this winter.


Again, you could say, "So what?" But, you see, the sugar beet is essentially the same plant, beta vulgaris, as the red and yellow table beets and chard that you serve to your family. All of these depend on wind-born pollen to develop seeds, and this pollen can travel (according to an EU study in 2001) as far as 5 miles away from its source.

And since Oregon only requires a 3-mile "isolation zone" between fields, the problem becomes evident. That's why the organic farmers and seed growers were so alarmed that they went to court to try to stop it, and why you should care. I'll definitely be keeping you apprised!

Read the other posts in the series: In The Wind, The Fight Begins in Earnest, The Wheels of Justice and The Wheels of Justice, Part 2.

No comments: