GMO Sugar: How Sweet It Isn’t

Brown Sugar

Our daughter Claire definitely falls into the category of picky eater.  Her sensitivity to taste limits what she eats, and I’m always trying to make the most of the food she’s willing to eat. One of those is pumpkin pie.  She loves it, and pumpkin has good nutritional value. On Sunday, we decided to try a different recipe than our usual.  I needed brown sugar, so I ran to the closest supermarket and picked up a pack of Domino’s brown sugar.  I felt my GMO radar go off, but nonetheless it was time for Claire and I to make a yummy pie, which we did.

The next day, I bought some organic brown sugar for future pies and felt better.  Yet I knew I hadn’t done any real research on GMO sugar, so I looked into it.  Here’s the scoop.

GMO sugar beets have been grown since 2008, though court orders have held back widespread use.  This year, despite a court-ordered request for an environmental review, genetically modified sugar beets got the USDA green light.  The go ahead was given based on a determination that GMO sugar beets are not a “pest plant,” i.e. a plant that could cause harm to other plants.  There was no assessment done on impacts to health, ecology or economics.   This, despite the fact that most Americans are ingesting GMO sugar on a daily basis.

Approximately 54 percent of U.S. sugar comes from sugar beets, and 90 percent of those sugar beets are genetically modified.  Now that sugar beets have been “cleared” of any wrong doing, you can expect even more use of GMO sugar in the U.S. food chain, as 85 percent of sugar in the US is domestic due to strict U.S. import tariffs on sugar.

The good news is that you can easily steer clear of GMO sugar if you make the effort – at least when it comes to what you eat from your own household.  Organic sugar contains no GMOs, but you don’t have to go with organic.  Sugar made from sugar cane, like Domino’s brown sugar, is safe from a GMO standpoint – as long as the box continues to say it’s made from sugar cane.  However, with regular processed food products in the grocery store like cereal, cookies, baking mixes, Jello, and countless other products that list “sugar” as an ingredient, the chances are high that the sugar is from GMO sugar beets.*

Come the holidays, with sweet treats galore at school and home parties, as gifts, no doubt we’ll be ingesting GMO sugar here and there (and rightfully enjoying the yummy baked goods before us!).  Still, the less, the better.

Ideally, the United States will get to the point where enough science is done to unequivocally prove that GMO sugar is doing serious damage to our bodies, our ecology and our economy.  Until then, buyer beware.  Sweets for the sweet are a lot sweeter when they do no harm.


*A note to once again say that Trader Joe’s does not permit GMO ingredients in any of their brand products like cereals, etc.  They’re a good option if you are fortunate to have one near you.

4 responses to “GMO Sugar: How Sweet It Isn’t

  1. Very interesting. Thanks. 🙂
    I hope Claire enjoyed the pie.

  2. I may need to stand corrected but I believe that the molasses in brown surgar which makes it brown is a gmo concern. As of 2013 I was told by Domino that the pure cane sugar is not gmo but the brown sugars are a different story.

  3. Good information, too bad it isn’t spelled out on the labels.

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