Brazil the First Country to Approve Genetically Engineered Sugar Cane: Are the U.S. and Canada Next?

By On June 15, 2017

One of the biggest problems with genetically engineered organisms is the fact that they aren’t labeled in the United States much the same way they are in dozens of other countries around the world (over 30 countries also ban their cultivation).

That means that people wishing to avoid them often have an extremely hard time figuring out what to buy in the grocery store, especially with GE (aka GMO or genetically modified organisms) ingredients present in the majority of all U.S. food products.

One of the best ways to avoid genetically engineered sugar beets is to avoid buying any food with the ingredient “sugar” listed, and to buy products that contain cane sugar instead.

But a new decision in Brazil just may set in motion the end of cane sugar as a trusted non-GMO alternative where labels are not present.

Genetically Modified Cane Sugar in Brazil Approved

According to this report from the website Reuters, authorization to move ahead with GMO cane sugar has been approved for CTC Centro de Technologia Canavieira SA, the developer of the crop.

The GMO cane sugar has been in development for years but this is the first time it has been approved anywhere in the world. The application for approval was just now approved after being submitted in December 2015.

In Brazil, about 10 million hectares of sugarcane currently exists and there is potential to plant up to 15 percent of it with GMO sugar cane according to the company’s CEO Gustavo Leite. It will take at least three years for the first shipments of the new GMO sugar to reach export markets, however, because many new cane varieties are also being distributed at this time in large part due to rising demand.

Thus far the United States and Canada have been given applications to import the new sugar cane while approval will also be sought in China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Indonesia. Europe, a continent in which nearly 20 countries recently banned GMOs, was not included in the list of countries.

The new GMO variety is said to be resistant to Diatraea saccharalis, also known as the cane borer, which causes over $1.5 billion in losses to cane crops. The GMO sugar cane will contain Bt which is used in GMO Bt corn and similar crops.

However, the question is whether this technology will hold up over time, or whether disasters and further, more complex troubles may strike farmers similar to what has happened in India, where swarms of white flies have ravaged Bt cotton crops and caused a growing switch back to natural crops.

In the U.S. over 90 percent of sugar beets are genetically engineered, which is what makes it so difficult for many people to avoid GMO ingredients in processed foods that often contain sweeteners such as sugar and corn syrup (also made from GMOs).

For more information on the approval and the new GMO cane sugar, check out the full article here, and be sure to stay informed on the cane sugar as it makes its way to U.S. shelves (choose organic and non-GMO options whenever possible).