In this recent Ag Week article, GMO sugar beets are said to be experiencing the full brunt of public distrust over GM foods. The food manufacturers are acquiescing to public pressure and are switching to non-GMO sugar alternatives.
This is an interesting development.
A few years back, we produced a series of videos about organic seed breeder Frank Morton who was worried that some of his neighbors were growing GMO sugar beets in the Willamette Valley and how those crops potentially could contaminant some of his related organic brassica crops that he grows for seed. The threat is real and the potential economic impact is also real. Much of his seeds are sold to Asian markets and their standards for purity (from GM contamination) are quite stringent. If Frank Morton’s seeds were found to contain even trace levels of GM genes in his seeds, he could lose those markets for his products.
Something else that strikes me from the article mentioned above, the following statement. “If we had to go back to conventional seeds, our cooperative couldn’t survive,” said Rebecca Larson, an agronomist with Western Sugar Cooperative in Denver.
Ms. Larsen states that less herbicides are used with GM sugar beets than with their conventional counterpart. If this claim is true, this runs counter to other Round Up ready GM crops which use not only high amounts of glyphosate, but increasingly are designed to withstand multiple different (and stronger) herbicide applications, 2-4-D (a systemic poison used in Agent Orange) or Dicamba in addition to Round-up.
Ultimately, we still do not know if GMO foods are safe for human and animal consumption. One thing we know in general, the commercial application of agricultural biotechnology regimen requires ever more reliance on herbicide usage and escalation toward stronger types. We just keep stacking the plant genes to absorb and withstand more poisons in a seemingly never-ending battle against the forces of nature.
For a deeper understanding of the issues involved with not just GMO sugar beets but the difference between open pollinated plant breeding versus the development of conventional plant hybrids, the tremendous consolidation in the seed industry and how farmers are impacted, check out our Seeds of Life series with organic seed breeder Frank Morton.
The Seeds of Life series:
- Seeds of Life: David Vs. Goliath (published: 12-2009)
- Seeds of Life: Beta Vulgaris (12-2009)
- Seeds of Life: The Organic Seed Breeder (3-2010)
- Seeds Of Life: Hybrids and the Emergence of Seed Monopolies (3-2010)
- Seeds Of Life: Open Pollination (6-2010)
- Seeds of Life: Consolidation in the Seed Industry (7-2010)