Non-GMO sugar suppliers emerge from controversy over GM beets
As the first crop of genetically modified sugar beets was harvested this past fall in the United States, at least three sugar processors have indicated they will sell only non-GMO sugar—for now. Spreckels Sugar, in Brawley, California, and Rogers Sugar/Lantic, Inc., in Alberta, Canada, currently process sugar from non-GMO sugar beets, while Diamond Sugar in Savannah, Georgia manufactures sugar products from non-GMO sugar beets.
Spreckels may not remain non-GMO for long, according to a company official. California farmers selling to Spreckels, which is a subsidiary of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, did not have the Roundup Ready GM varieties to grow this past year, but that could change this year. “They are hoping to get GM seed varieties,” the official said. That could happen this year or in 2010. The official predicts, “They will convert to Roundup Ready rapidly.”
California’s growing season requires different seed varieties than those grown in other states, and these varieties have not yet been released.
Rogers Sugar/Lantic operates a sugar beet processing facility in Taber, Alberta. The facility contracts with about 400 sugar beet farmers each year and produces up to 150,000 tons of sugar each year from the harvested beets. Sugar products include white, brown, liquid, and organic sugars.
Andrew Lewellyn Jones, a member of Rogers Sugar/Lantic quality assurance’s team, said the company exports its products to Europe, where the GM sugar beets have not been approved. He says his company will continue processing conventional, non-GMO sugar beets. However, he said that if only GM seed were available to farmers, the company may be forced to buy GM beets.
Interestingly, Rogers/Lantic mentioned its non-GMO statement on a Q&A page on its website. However, that statement was recently removed, which may indicate that the company may not want to publicize its non-GMO commitment.
Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) recently announced a commitment to purchase only food products from suppliers who don’t use sugar from GM sugar beets. A survey of its largest food suppliers found that, while most suppliers preferred to buy non-GMO sugar beets, only Diamond Crystal said it would buy only verified non-GMO supplies of sugar.
The non-GMO sugar suppliers emerged despite the fact that the US sugar beet industry aimed to block a non-GMO option. (See The Organic & Non-GMO Report, June 2008).
While these are the only non-GMO suppliers of beet sugar found to date, there are many suppliers of conventional and organic sugar from sugar cane. These include Wholesome Sweeteners, based in Sugar Land, Texas (www.organicsugars.biz) and Florida Crystals Food Corporation, based in West Palm Beach, Florida (www.organicsugars.biz).
© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report February 2009