It’s been a week for sugar headlines. First, the Corn Refiners Association applied to the Food and Drug Administration to relabel high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar.” The CRA says the new name will clarify things for consumers, but the blogosphere quickly pegged it for the marketing ploy it is. I suppose one can argue the relative merits and evils of HFCS, but there’s a reason consumption has dropped to a 20-year low—people like me don’t want highly engineered sweeteners showing up in everything from tonic water to pickles and hot dogs.
On another front, sugar beet farmers are now banned from planting sugar beets genetically modified to withstand Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, thanks to a U.S. District court ruling. Biotech beets make up 95% of the nation’s crop, according to NPR, and farmers say there isn’t enough non-GMO seed available to plant a conventional crop next spring and warn of impending sugar shortages.
It’s easy to pine for the long-ago days of perceived agrarian simplicity, before science started tinkering with our food. But the reality is science has affected how we produce food since man began saving seed for the next year’s crop. Farmers deserve all the tools we can give them, including GM seeds, which have delivered some very real environmental benefits. But companies like Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill aren’t altruistic; they’re in it for the money. Consumers shouldn’t buy what they don’t want, no matter what it’s named. Government should more closely scrutinize any new miracle products Big Ag creates, and approve, regulate or ban as appropriate. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Let’s hope it does.