Monday, December 06, 2010

Not so sweet

To anyone who's been watching the GM sugar beet issue, it's perhaps not surprising to see Monsanto being just the tiniest bit manipulative in the media. If the genetically modified sugarbeet they hustled onto the market without doing their environmental impact study is banned, they argue, your sugar prices will rise.

So whose fault would a rise in sugar prices be then, the farmers who planted the beets at Monsanto's promise it would make their lives easier, their yields higher and their profits better? The consumer, who has no say? The sugar companies who, for reasons we can only guess at, insisted farmers plant GM sugar beets? The multinational who stands to make a lot of money from the exercise?

The arguments against genetically modified sugar beets are pretty standard: if you allow sugar beets to be planted, as Alberta currently does (for Rogers Sugar/Lantic) as did the US sugar beet industry, then you risk cross-contamination of sugar beet's plant relatives, through cross-pollination. These relatives include table beets and chard, and that puts at risk the crops of farmers who wish to grow them as conventional or organic crops.

Another reason for opposing GM sugar beets is their herbicide resistance, which means there is a potential for increased use of herbicides. Increased use of herbicides leads to increases in herbicide-resistant weeds, which leads to even more use of herbicides. And round and round. Since Monsanto sells both the seed and the herbicide, it is in their economic interest to sell plenty of both. Given the profits it stands to make by selling its herbicides, should we accept the company's assurances that no harm will come from the residues of their product that ends up on our food, our farmland and in our water supply?

And finally, consumers who simply do not wish to consume genetically modifed foods are once again being sold a food product that doesn't have to be labelled - so they have no real choice in the matter - and whose health risks over the long term are simply not known. We've been told that if we wish to avoid GMO products, we need only buy certified organic. But products like these are simply slipped into the food chain without public warning. And if consumers don't know in the first place that their sugar is suddenly now made from genetically modified ingredients, how would they know to switch to organic?

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Blogger Steve said...

This is one of the most objective and detailed posts on this issue I have read so far. Thank you for sharing your point of view. I will be sure to tell my readers about it to. Monsanto does seem to get by with more than it should. You folks in Canada seems to have endured most of it so far. Now it's our turn in the US if we don't speak out.


7:34 a.m.  

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