I ran across a shocking statistic this week about sugar.
It turns out that 95% of all sugar beets are genetically modified. And because 50 percent of sugar comes from sugar beets, that means that almost 50% of sugar comes from genetically modified sources1.
So in addition to the well-known problems with eating refined sugar and products made with it, we have this additional problem. Every time someone eats sugar they’re playing a kind of nutritional roulette, gambling on whether or not the sugar is from a genetically modified source.
And since you won’t find information about the source of any sugar (or sugar-containing products) you eat on the package, there’s no way to ever know.
Some people might conclude from this that even with its health-damaging properties, that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a better choice.
The USDA reports that between 81% and 86 % of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified2. And since corn is the source for HFCS, the same problem exists for using it as a sweetener as exists for regular sugar. The only difference is that HFCS is more likely to be genetically modified.
What about honey?
Consider that bees don’t differentiate between conventional and genetically modified crops when they are gathering pollen. This means that when they gather pollen from genetically modified plants, the honey they make is a product of genetic modification.
So what can you do if you’ve got a sweet tooth?
From a personal perspective, if you want to add sweeteners to your foods, you need to add only organically grown sources for your sweeteners. You can find organic sugar in most health food stores.
You can also explore using Stevia as a natural sugar substitute. It tastes somewhat different than sugar but definitely adds sweetness to foods. In addition, studies indicate Stevia can lower elevated blood sugar levels by up to 35%3. As an added bonus, it helps fight the dental plaque that causes tooth decay4, 5.
To learn more about the problems associated with genetically modified foods, including which brands to avoid, see the Organic Consumer Association page on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
3. Gregersen, S., et al. Antihyperglycemic effects of stevioside in type 2 diabetic subjects. Metabolism. 53(1):73-76, 2004.
4. Landry, S. T., et al. Stevia wonder. Mother NatureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Health Journal Biweekly Newsletter. 3(1), 2000.
5. Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.