Are All Sugar Beets Created Equal?
by biodiversity intern Alaine Janosy
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are being introduced into our food system regularly, and there is no easy way for consumers to know if what they are eating is GM or non-GM. Since the United States has not issued any legislation related to genetically engineered (GE) products since 1986, the general public is left to their own devices when trying to determine the genetic origins of their food. If companies are going to continue to splice genes into plants to make them insect resistance or herbicide tolerant there should be a labeling requirement so each of us can make the personal choice whether or not to ingest them. No new legislation in 23 years is a little ridiculous considering how prolific GMs are becoming in our food system.
Lacking all-encompassing federal legislation, the issue will continue to be handled on a case-by-case basis, generally as a result of a law suit being brought once the GM food has already been in our food system for months, if not years, in courtrooms nationwide, as it was on Monday, September 21, 2009, in Federal District Court in San Francisco. The source of the debate, the sugar beet, which has long been a source of sugar in the United States, and accounts for about 30% of sugar production worldwide.
Although sugar beets have been processed for sugar in the United States since the mid-1800s, it was only recently that genetically modified (GM) sugar beets began to be planted. During the spring of 2008 the first Roundup resistant sugar beets were planted. These beets contain a bacterial gene that makes them resistant to the chemical weed killer, Roundup, produced and sold by Monsanto, a global provider of agricultural products for farmers. Monsanto also licenses the gene that makes the beets Roundup resistant.
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