GM sugarcane

July 2017

Brazil has been a major supplier of non-GM soya to Europe. While huge tracts are planted with GM soya, the country has a very large land area and is confident it can keep GM and non-GM separate.

Last year, saw reductions in several GM-growing areas around the world: two countries (Romania and Burkino Faso) discontinued GM agriculture, India dropped GM cotton cultivation due to pest problems, one of China's biggest provinces implemented a 5-year ban on growing, processing and selling GM crops, Chinese GM cotton planting dropped 24%, while Argentina moved to crop diversification and away from GM. However, globally, the hectares planted to GM crops continue to edge upwards because the reductions have been offset by continuing increases in North and South America where 90% of GM plantings take place.

In Brazil there has been a rise in GM crop area, most of which will be soya, accompanied by reports of the deforestation of nearly 2 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon, the first in a decade.

This renewed environmental destruction may portend something more ominous than just more GM soya.

Regulators in Brazil have approved the commercial use of GM sugarcane.

The novel sugarcane has a 'Bt' insecticide gene for killing cane borer. Future plans are to stack the sugarcane with additional Bt genes plus herbicide resistance.

It is anticipated that it will take at least three years for the first shipments to reach the export markets, and that it may take 10 years to attain the predicted 1.5 million hectares of GM sugarcane.

Applications have been made to sell the GM sugar in major countries including America, Canada, China, India and Russia.


Given the US consumer backlash against GM sugarbeet [1], and the resulting shift to 'safe' non-GM cane sugar, this move might seem surprising. No doubt GM beet growers, the US GM-friendly administration and the biotech industry welcome Brazil's move because Americans could end up with a choice of GM or GM to satisfy their sweet tooth. 

How about putting some attention on health? For the planet, that means stop destroying the environment to make way for genetic pollution. For ourselves, that means cutting down the sugar in our diet, and not adding to our existing sugar problem by boosting it with Bt toxins, herbicides, or weird DNA. 


[1] US FOOD TRENDS GOING INTO 2016 - February 2016

  • GM crops stalled in 2016, GM Watch 9.05.17
  • Gregor Heard, GM numbers cause controversy, 8.05.17
  • Ana Mano, Brazil approves world's first commercial GM sugarcane: developer CTC, Reuters 8.06.17

    Photo: Creative Commons

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