May 2, 2017

Sugar (sucrose) is a molecule that occurs naturally in all sugar beets and sugar cane. This sucrose molecule is identical, whether it comes from a sugar beet or a stalk of sugar cane and whether or not biotechnology was involved. A genetically engineered sugar beet has enhanced characteristics for weed, insect and disease control, along with benefits to the environment. And, all genetic material is removed from the sugar during the beet sugar extraction process well before the sugar gets to the food supply. This includes any genetic material introduced into the plant during genetic engineering (plant DNA and proteins). Thus, regardless of whether the plant from which the sugar (sucrose) is derived is biotech or otherwise, the resulting sugar molecule is identical and in all cases, the sugar we eat is the result of the extraction of naturally occurring sucrose from the plant.

Modern plant breeding technologies, including biotechnology, enable farmers to produce greater quantities of safe food with much less impact on the environment. The benefits of genetic engineering are numerous and there is no credible scientific evidence that genetically modified sugar beets, when compared to sugar beets produced using traditional plant breeding methods, present any risk to the environment or to food and feed safety. In fact, the European Commission examined a decade of publicly funded research and found no scientific evidence that any genetically engineered crop presents a higher food or feed safety risk.

In 1992, as biotech crops entered into the marketplace, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a policy statement concluding that genetic engineering is a “continuum” of traditional plant breeding techniques, and a more “precise” methodology to “increase the potential to produce safe, better-characterized and more predictable foods.” In 2014 and 2015, FDA officials reaffirmed the 1992 policy, testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Health and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry that “we are confident that the GE (genetically engineered) foods in the U.S. marketplace today are as safe as their conventional counterparts.” The safety of genetically engineered crops has been extensively studied for decades. An exhaustive review of over 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies conducted over a decade, shows no evidence of harm to human health due to the consumption of food derived from biotech crops.

Virtually all sugar beet growers in the U.S. and Canada grow sugar beets that have been genetically enhanced using biotechnology in order to achieve better weed control and a healthier sugar beet, making for more efficient and resilient growing conditions. But biotech crops, like sugar beets, also have significant documented environmental benefits including reductions in the use of pesticides, the use of less toxic pesticides, reductions in greenhouse gases due to less fuel use and reduced tillage, reduced water use, and better soil conservation.

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