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The Halloween Folklore Around Sugar from GM Sugarbeets

October 28, 2016
Everyone loves sugar! According to the USDA, global sugar consumption for 2016/17 is forecast at a record 174 million metric tons. In 2015/16, it is predicted that approximately 10.9 million metric tons of sugar will be consumed in the United States alone.

With Halloween right around the corner, sugar is certainly on everyone's mind. According to the National Confectioners Association, the sales of candy are projected to be around $2.6 billion during the 2016 Halloween season.

Many don't realize that sugarbeet sugar actually accounts for 20% of the world's production of sugar. In her TheSweetTruth blog , sugarbeet farmer Laura cites that beet sugar represents 54 percent of domestic sugar production in the U.S. and that America’s sugar beet farmers produce enough beet sugar to meet the sugar needs of over 132 million Americans every year.

Further, more than 90 percent of the sugarbeets grown in this country are genetically modified (GMO). And genetically modified sugar beets make up half of the U.S. sugar production.

So if you’re eating Halloween candy this year, which probably contains sugar, chances are those foods are GMO. The term GMO can be an unfamiliar and even scary but there is no need to worry. The refined sugar that you eat is the same at the molecular level, regardless of whether it is grown from conventional, organic or genetically engineered seeds.

Let’s break it down. Sugar made from GM sugarbeets is indistinguishable from other sugar because the GMO protein in the beets is removed in processing.

Sugar from all sources has been tested at the molecular level, and scientific evidence has proven that there is no DNA or protein present in refined sugar.

Therefore, sugar, whether from sugar beets and sugarcane or from sugar crops grown using conventional, biotech or organic methods, is identical. Furthermore, there is also no difference between domestically and internationally grown sugars.

Today, biotechnology-enhanced sugar beets are helping growers manage weeds, improve productivity and lessen impacts on the environment, while preserving a sustainable and geographically diverse supply of sugar. Read more here.

What about cross contamination between GM Sugarbeets and non-GM Sugarbeets?

The Genetic Literacy Project does a great job of answering this common question among consumers.
"Sugar beets are biennial and do not produce flowers when grown for sugar; the only time pollen is shed from a sugar beet plant is during seed production.

"All commercial seed production for the entire U.S. occurs in Oregon. Sugar beets are close relatives of Swiss chard and table beets, so they can fertilize each other and they are all present in Oregon.

"Upon introduction of GE sugar beets, the sugar beet seed companies recognized the need to voluntarily implement practices to reduce the risk of unintended pollen flow. They identified publicly where they were located so organic farmers could mind isolation distances, they increased their minimum isolation distance to greater than twice the Oregon Seed Certification program mandate, and they moved the GE trait to the female side of the hybrid (the side that does not produce pollen) so only conventional pollen would be present."

So don’t fall for false misrepresentation and scare tactics around the use of GMOs. Halloween is a pass that grants you permission to indulge in your favorite sweets.