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The Boulder County Board of Commissioners has reportedly delayed a decision about whether genetically modified (GM) sugar beets can be grown on open-space land. At a August 25, 2009, public hearing, six farmers who in December requested permission to grow the beets on county land apparently asked the commissioners to delay the decision. “I don’t think any of us thought for a second that this issue would have become as emotionally charged as it has today,” one of the farmers was quoted as saying. In 2003, the commissioners voted to allow GM corn but stipulated that any new GM crop would need new permission. This spring, county staffers researched the pros and cons of GM sugar beets but during the recent meeting the commissioners asked the Parks and Open Space Department to create a broader policy that would address GM crops in general. “We do not want to be in…

The European Commission (EC) has reportedly entered the second phase of a crackdown on functional food health claims advertising a product’s purported health benefits. EC regulations currently require the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to draw up a “positive list” of permitted health claims by 2010, but the commission is now discussing further restrictions on functional foods that also contain high levels of sugar, saturated fat or salt. According to EFSA, the agency has received “4,185 main health claim entries” that each comprise “a food component, a health relationship and an example of wording.” This review process “takes into account the conditions of use and references available for around 10,000 similar health claims.” Meanwhile, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has asked the commission to restrict advertising for products with more than 15 percent sugar content, although the final threshold appears likely to fall between 20-25 percent sugar content. Several…

UK scientists have shown in new research that the food-poisoning bug Salmonella relies on glucose for its survival, a discovery that could apparently provide a new way to vaccinate against it. Steven D. Bowden, et al, “Glucose and glycolysis are required for the successful infection of macrophages and mice by Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium,” Infection and Immunity (April 20, 2009). Institute of Food Research (IFR) scientists claim that their discovery of Salmonella’s weakness for sugar could also lead to vaccine strains to protect against other disease-causing bacteria, including superbugs. “This is the first time that anyone has identified the nutrients that sustain Salmonella while it is infecting a host’s body,” said study co-author Arthur Thompson in a statement from IFR, which called the discovery “a major breakthrough.” The next phase of the research will reportedly test whether mutant strains elicit a protective immune response in mice. See IFR Press Release, May 2009.

This article examines the claim that the production of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has a greater environmental impact than similar processes used to manufacture sucrose from sugar cane or sugar beets. According to Slate columnist Nina Shen Rastogi, “sugar cane seems to be the most efficient producer of sugar and potentially the lightest user of fossil fuels, even though its significant water requirements can’t be ignored.” The article reports that one consulting firm ranked HFCS processing “the most energy-intensive food-manufacturing industry in America, meaning it spent the most on electricity and fuel per dollar-value shipments made,” while “sugar beet processing comes in at No. 2” and “sugar cane mills and refineries, collectively, are No. 3.” Other researchers reportedly concluded that, “on average, greenhouse gas emissions, and the release of acidifying substances seemed highest with corn sugar.” Rastogi notes, however, that each type of processing “returns some useful byproducts that can…

According to a news source, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has elected not to change its position on the deregulation of genetically modified (GM) sugar beets. The Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice apparently requested that USDA reconsider its deregulation decision pertaining to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® sugar beets, and the agency’s lawyers apparently chose to “stand by” its decision. Center for Food Safety lawyer Zelig Golden was quoted as saying, “This certainly is not the ‘change’ the Obama administration promised. We’re very disappointed that the USDA and Secretary [Tom] Vilsack did not take this important opportunity to reverse the Bush administration’s flawed position on [genetically modified organisms], and take steps to safeguard public health, environment and farmers’ livelihoods.” Critics of GM crops are particularly concerned about the contamination of non-GM and organic crops. See Foodnavigator-USA.com, April 1, 2009.

The European Commission’s (EC’s) Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health reportedly deadlocked on February 16, 2009, over whether France and Greece should be forced to lift their bans on a genetically modified (GM) corn seed that is the only one approved for planting in the European Union. According to a biotechnology industry spokesperson, the increase in votes favoring the cultivation of GM crops signals a new momentum in Europe to open markets to these controversial crops. EU environmentalists and consumers have long opposed their introduction, citing environmental risks and the unwelcome intrusion of large corporate interests into agriculture. A larger vote next week may, say biotech industry executives, lead to the approval of two additional GM corn seeds for marketing in the EU. Mike Hall, a spokesperson for the developer of one of them, has reportedly indicated that the company is waiting to see if the EU…

According to a news source, the lawsuit instituted by the Sugar Association to challenge the marketing of the artificial sweetener Splenda® as “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar” has been resolved through a confidential settlement agreement. The trade organization alleged that McNeil Nutritionals’ product promotion deliberately misinformed consumers who would be led to believe that Splenda® contained sugar. A Sugar Association spokesperson reportedly said, “The sugar industry is very satisfied with the settlement and with what they believe will be the outcome of the settlement in terms of marketing of the product.” According to a McNeil spokesperson, the tag line is still in use. See Foodnavigator-usa.com, November 18, 2008.

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