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Hawai'i CFS

Genetically engineered sugar is a trick, not a treat

October 31, 2015
Center for Food Safety

What’s scarier than all those spooky Halloween costumes? The genetically engineered sugar hiding in your Halloween candy. 

Sugar in our Halloween candy (and our cereal, granola bars, crackers, bread – anything that contains sugar) comes from several sources, including sugar beets. In fact, about half of the sugar used in the U.S. is beet sugar (the other half is cane sugar). Sadly, the vast majority of sugar beets grown in the U.S. are now Roundup Ready - genetically engineered to withstand repeated spraying with Monsanto’s toxic weed killer, Roundup®, and its active ingredient, glyphosate.

That’s bad enough on its own, but it gets worse. When the USDA first approved the planting of GE sugar beets, the EPA also increased the maximum allowable residues of glyphosate on the beet roots (from which sugar is extracted) by a staggering 5,000%!  This EPA policy change was made at the request of Monsanto, producer of GE sugar beet seeds.

Glyphosate is the world’s most heavily used conventional pesticide, with over 280 million lbs. sprayed on American cropland each year.  With such massive use comes increasing exposure, and glyphosate has been detected in the air, water and rainfall, in foods, and in human urine and blood. Just this past summer the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) cancer authorities – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – determined that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” IARC is the world’s leading authority on cancer.

Center for Food Safety has led the charge against GE sugar beets for nearly a decade. In 2008, CFS, along with a coalition of farmer and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit challenging the USDA’s approval of GE sugar beets. As a result, in 2010, a federal court banned the crop until USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers and the public. Two years later, USDA issued its Environmental Impact Statement on GE sugar beets, illustrating the crop’s potential to contaminate organic table beets and Swiss chard, and highlighting the ever increasing threats from glyphosate resistant weeds. Nevertheless, USDA issued a wholesale approval of GE sugar beets.

Now the fight has moved to supermarket shelves. According to a Reuters report just this week, as public sentiment moves against GE sugar beets and other Roundup Ready crops, sugar beet growers have seen their share of the U.S. sugar market slip to the smallest on record. Hershey announced earlier this year that it will drop GE beet sugar and other GE ingredients in its Kisses® and Milk Chocolate® bars, two of its best-known products, by the end of the year. 

Consumers have made similar requests of other companies, like Mars. But Mars has given its customers no such assurances. Mars makes up nearly 30% of the U.S. chocolate market and makes Mars Bars, M&Ms, Milky Way, Skittles, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Starburst and Twix, among other Halloween favorites. 

As consumers, we care about the health and environmental impacts of the foods we buy and feed our families.  That’s why CFS is urging Mars to listen to consumers and remove GE sugar from ALL of its products and to move towards sourcing ingredients produced in a more sustainable manner that avoids GE crops and reduces the use of toxic pesticides like glyphosate.

Halloween should be scary – but our candy shouldn’t be! Tell Mars to give us treats, not tricks!


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