Are U.S. sugar beet farmers really thinking about going back to growing non-GMO beets?
We have reported to you in earlier stories on the Northern Ag Network that Hershey’s Chocolate has begun to move from beet sugar to cane sugar. Added is the uncertainty of how Congress will handle the GMO labeling situation is also making it tough for beet farmers as several states move toward implementing GMO-labeling laws. Vermont is expected to be the first, with its law is scheduled to go into effect July 1.
Now some say a remarkable change is happening in the American sugar market, as slowly, but consistently, a gap has opened up between the price of sugar from cane and sugar from beets.
“The current price for beet sugar is about 3 to 5 cents below the price for cane sugar on the spot market,” says Michael McConnell, an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.
That means that buyers are paying 10 to 15 percent more for cane sugar.
Andrew Kniss, Associate Professor, Weed Biology & Ecology at the University of Wyoming has produced a very informative and eye-opening article explaining why as consumers shift to non-GMO sugar, farmers may be forced to abandon environmental and social gains.
Sugar beet growers like Andrew Beyer from Minnesota say they will provide what their customers want, but “it's insane to think that a non-GMO beet is going to be better for the environment, the world, or the consumer.” Beyer explained to Dan Charles of NPR that to switch back from Roundup-Ready sugar beets to conventional seed would be very difficult for the sugar beet industry.
Ric Rodriguez, a Powell farmer and vice-chairman of the Western Sugar Cooperative Board of Directors told the Powell Tribune that consumers are being misled, referring to the studies indicating sugar from GMO sugar beets is chemically identical to non-GMO sugar. “It is disappointing [consumers] are bowing to activists against GMOs, but a marketing ploy is all it is to me.”
A marketing ploy that may end up being a very expensive one for U.S. sugar beet farmers
© Northern Ag Network 2016