Sugar From Genetically Engineered Beets on Its Way

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Look out for genetically modified sugar in a shopping aisle near you by next year. American Crystal, a large Wyoming-based sugar company, has announced it will be sourcing its sugar from genetically engineered sugar beets beginning this year and arriving in stores in 2008, according to the Associated Press.

Spotting those GE sweeteners won't be easy: You won't find any labels trumpeting this detail, because; like GE corn and GE soy, products containing GE-beet-derived sugar will be on the down-low. (Oooh, those wascally wabbits!) The GE sugar beet is designed to hold its own against Monsanto's broad-spectrum Roundup herbicide, and farmers planing GE sugar beets are told they may be able to apply the herbicide up to five times a year, says the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

This marks an 180-degree turn for American Crystal on the controversial issue of genetic modification. In May, the company said in a statement that it had no plans to grow GM sugar beets, and that herbicide-resistant varieties developed using biotechnology would not "be allowed to be sold, given away, distributed, or planted in year 2007."

What a difference three months makes. Last month, David Berg, the company's president was quoted by the AP as saying that he believed biotechnology was "the current wave that will help feed the world."

The candy barons, on the other hand, are apparently on our side. OCA reports that companies like Hershey's are urging the 12,000 American sugar-beet farmers not to go with the GE flow, mainly because of consumer reticence to the concept. ::AP and ::Organic Consumers Association