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USDA's call on GM sugar beets not so sweet

Two years ago the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave sugar beet farmers the go ahead to begin planting GMO beets that could resist Monsanto's Roundup Ready herbicide. It only took a couple of growing season for the GMO sugar beet crop to swell from zero to 95 percent of the U.S. market and conventional seeds where all but abandoned.

All was well in sugar land until this August a federal judge challenged the USDA's decision and called the organization out for not properly assessing how the GM crops would impact the environment—namely, there were reports that the GM beets could potentially cross-pollinate Swiss chard and organic crops.  He ruled that the GMO seeds would not be allowed until the USDA completed an evaluation.

The industry cried foul. With a ban on GMO beets (where Americans get roughly half of the sugar they consume) and now not enough conventional seeds for a full crop, where would we get our sugar? Rather than take this as an opportunity to hike the prices of sugar and sugary processed foods, thus encouraging Americans to pull their proverbial sweet teeth, the USDA announced it would issue special permits for seed producers to plant GM beets but that these crops would not be allowed to flower.

The image of farmhands plucking these buds in such an obvious act of futility does more than cause a slight chuckle. Haven't we learned that Mother Nature always finds a way? Not to mention the negative impact GM crops have on our health. Most consumers opt for non-GMO options when given the choice, and I predict by 2012 most manufacturers will need to have specific non-GMO lines. Rather than persisting with a system that clearly sucks, why not put energy into growing more non-GMO seeds?



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