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The USDA Says Americans Need More Sugar…and More GMOs

February 17, 2011

By Josh Corn

Sugar BeetThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is worried about an impending nationwide sugar shortage. This is the reason, officials said last week, that they gave farmers the green light to plant Monsanto’s previously outlawed genetically engineered Roundup Ready sugar beets. Currently, 30% of the world’s sugar is produced from beets.

Ironically enough, the USDA just weeks ago released its latest set of dietary guidelines for Americans, which place stronger emphasis on the importance of reducing calorie consumption and avoiding things like trans fats, refined flours — and added sugars.

“The 2010 Dietary Guidelines are being released at a time when the majority of adults and 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in an official press release.

So in light of this crisis and these new recommendations, why is the USDA resorting to the hasty approval of a genetically engineered crop to ensure that the U.S. sugar supply remains abundant?

Recent surveys have indicated that the majority of Americans don’t want GMOs entering their food supply, and that over 90% of Americans believe that GMO foods should be labeled as such. So perhaps even more importantly, why does the USDA continue to ignore public opinion by not only allowing the planting of GMO crops, but also by allowing GMO foods to be sold without any labeling whatsoever? (Just to remind you, last month the USDA  decided to allow unrestricted planting of genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa, this month it’s sugar beets — who knows what’s up next.)

The answers to these puzzling questions may unfortunately lie in the untold level of influence that Big Agra giant Monsanto has on the USDA.

Voted “Most Evil Corporation” of 2010 in a survey conducted by NaturalNews.com, Monsanto is basically synonymous with the GMO industry and all of the societal and environmental ills that go along with it. I won’t go into all of Monsanto’s crimes here, but I encourage you to read about the Organic Consumer Association’s Millions Against Monsanto campaign to learn more.

Strictly from a health perspective, there is more than enough reason to be concerned about GMOs. No long-term human safety studies have ever been conducted on the effects of their consumption, yet the USDA seems to assume that GMO foods are safe (enough). But studies pointing towards potentially harmful effects of GMO consumption continue to pile up. (There are also a few industry-funded studies that supposedly prove GMO foods are completely safe.)

Aside from the potential health threats of GMOs themselves, there is also the issue of heavy chemical use on genetically engineered crops. Don’t forget, these crops aren’t engineered to be more nutritious, which would be one thing. They are specifically designed to withstand heavy, repeated application of pesticides and herbicides such as Roundup — at levels so extreme that they would kill normal crops.

“If you thought your sugary treat was bad before, it’s just become a nightmare,” began a statement on the USDA’s decision to deregulate GMO sugar beets from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.

“Soon, many candy bars in America could be produced with sugar grown with Monsanto’s dangerous Roundup herbicide. While Americans enjoy their dessert, Monsanto will reap ever-larger profits and enjoy ever-greater power over what you and I eat.”

Currently, the only way to be assured that your food is non-GMO is to buy organic foods (or to grow your own). But even organic foods are under threat. In a disturbing turn of events last week, some of the nation’s “organic giants,” including Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm, expressed support for “coexistence” between organic foods and GMOs.

While peaceful coexistence may seem like a good idea in theory, the fact of the matter is that it’s impossible. Cross-contamination of GMO with non-GMO crops — which is already occurring in GMO corn and soy — poses a major threat to entire organic farming industry. Scientists say that this cross-contamination, which occurs when genes are transferred from crop to crop via wind-pollination, is unavoidable. Depending on wind levels, they say, pollen can spread up to six miles or more.

If you oppose the USDA’s decision to allow the planting of GMO alfalfa and sugar beets, I urge you to visit the Alliance for Natural Health’s Action Alert page where you can write to President Obama, Congress, and the USDA, and ask them to reverse this decision.

What else can we, as consumers and natural health advocates, do to fight back against GMOs? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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