Monsanto's GMO Beets Are Coming To Your Table Soon
Genetically modified sugar beets have been planted in Oregon's Willamette Valley. These beets have had genetic material from a different plant inserted into them that allows them to survive the application of the herbicide Roundup which is also produced by Monsanto. The planting of GMO crops pose a risk to the farmers growing organically. If the area is contaminated with GMO pollen or seeds, they will be unable to retain their organic certification.
WILLAMETTE VALLEY, Ore.—The sugar beets growing in farmer Tim Winn’s fields do not look menacing. But other farmers in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley fear the beets could devastate their crops.
Winn’s sugar beets have been genetically modified to allow them to survive application of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide. The modification allows Winn to kill weeds in his field with two sprayings of Roundup, rather than the multiple applications of various herbicides he used to use.
“We admit Roundup is a less toxic alternative than a lot of the herbicides, but weed resistance is developing really fast,” Golden says. “Eventually, Roundup becomes obsolete and farmers have to use these really nasty herbicides. It’s a self-defeating prophecy to use this as a silver bullet.”
And, he notes, the possible human health consequences of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops have not been adequately studied.
Sugar beets supply about half the nation’s sugar, and represent a $21 billion industry. Packaged sugar on grocery shelves contains sugar beet and sugar cane. Because sugar is produced in large factories, if Roundup Ready becomes the sugar beet industry standard, it is unlikely any sugar would be available to consumers that does not come partially from GMO beets.
But Morton and other growers of organic chard and table beets fear Roundup Ready beets will wipe out their industry, regardless of whether it is contaminated from nearby GMO sugar beets.
Chard is closely related to sugar beets, so genetically modified sugar beet seeds could contaminate the crop, thereby obliterating the chard’s organic certification and market.
“There’s a problem with perception,” Morton says. “If word gets out that we’re contaminated with GE [genetic engineering], we’re no better than any place else.”
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