The Sugar Industry Biotech Council provides science-based information regarding biotechnology and other technological advances in sugar beet and sugar cane crops.  The crops and the sugar produced from them are shown in this image.

Frequently Asked Questions

SIBC

What is the Sugar Industry Biotech Council?
The Sugar Industry Biotech Council (SIBC) represents all constituents of the sugar industry. The SIBC is a collaborative group, and currently is comprised of U.S. and Canadian sugar beet and sugar cane growers and processors, sugar industry associations, technology companies and seed companies. The purpose of the SIBC is to provide science-based information regarding technological advances in both sugar beet and sugar cane crops, information on the benefits of these advances and information on sugar products derived from technologically enhanced sugar beets and sugar cane.

General

Where are sugar beets grown?
Sugar beets are grown commercially throughout the world in cooler, temperate climates. The main producers around the world are the European Union, the United States, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine, Iran, Japan and China. In the United States, sugar beets are grown in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Where is sugar cane grown?
The main sugar cane producers around the world are Brazil, India, China, Mexico, Australia, Thailand, Pakistan and the United States. In the United States, sugar cane is grown in Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana and Texas.

How is sugar produced from sugar beets?
Beet sugar processing normally is accomplished in one continuous process. During the process, the natural sugar stored in the beet root is separated from the rest of the plant material. The sugar beets are washed, sliced and boiled in water to begin the sugar extraction process. The resulting sugar-containing juice is filtered, concentrated to a thick syrup by boiling where the sugar begins to crystallize, washed with hot water in a rapidly spinning centrifuge to separate sugar and molasses and dried in a series of steps. After sugar and molasses have been recovered from the sugar beet, the remaining pulp is utilized for animal feed.

How is sugar produced from sugar cane?
During the process, the natural sugar stored in the cane stalk is separated from the rest of the plant material. This separation begins by grinding the cane and boiling it in water to begin the sugar extraction process. The sugar-containing juice is boiled until it thickens into a syrup from which the sugar crystallizes, the crystals are spun in a centrifuge where a portion of the molasses is removed to produce raw sugar, and the raw sugar is traditionally dried before shipment to a refinery. At the refinery, the raw sugar is mixed with water in a rapidly spinning centrifuge to remove the last remaining molasses. The white sugar is then crystallized, dried and packaged.

Is there a difference between sugar derived from sugar beets or sugar cane?
The sugar is the same no matter its original plant source or growing practice. Sugar – whether from sugar beets or sugar cane, or from sugar crops grown using conventional, biotech, or organic methods – is pure and natural and has the same nutritional value, composition and wholesomeness.

What food industries use sugar?
The food industry – baked goods, beverage, cereal, confection and dairy – uses sugar to make their sugar-containing food products. Sugar beet pulp and molasses products are used as animal feed ingredients, while sugar cane molasses is used for human consumption.

Biotechnology-Enhanced Sugar Beets and Sugar Cane

Is there a difference between sugar from biotechnology-enhanced sugar beets and conventional sugar beet plants?
The sugar is the same no matter its original plant source or growing practice. Sugar – whether from sugar beets or sugar cane, or from sugar crops grown using convetional, biotech, or organic methods - is pure and natural and has the same nutritional value, composition and wholesomeness.

Regulatory agencies around the world have reviewed Roundup Ready sugar beets and confirmed that the sugar beets and end-products derived from those sugar beets are the same as the food and feed products derived from today’s conventional sugar beets. This includes regulatory agencies in the United States (Food and Drug Administration), Canada (Health Canada), the European Union (European Food Safety Authority), Japan (The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan) and Australia and New Zealand (Food Standards Australia New Zealand).

Additionally, independent scientific analyses conducted by internationally recognized laboratories utilizing state-of-the-art scientific methods showed that the sugar from Roundup Ready sugar beets is identical to the sugar from comparably grown conventional (non-Roundup Ready) sugar beets. And, like all sugar, sugar from Roundup Ready sugar beets contains no detectable levels of protein (including the protein that provides glyphosate tolerance) or genetic material (Klein et al, 1998). These results were validated with the sugar derived from a 2007 commercial-scale processing of Roundup Ready sugar beets.

What are the benefits to consumers?
Consumers benefit from both a product and an environmental standpoint.

Because sugar is an important ingredient in the North American food supply, it is vital to have a sustainable and geographically diverse supply of sugar and sugar byproducts to support the North American food industry for consumers. In North America, hurricanes, droughts, floods, frosts and other environmental events have historically challenged the dependable supply of sugar products.

Also, biotechnology-enhanced sugar beets, like other biotech crops, lessen the impacts on the environment. The Roundup Ready® system in sugar beets requires fewer herbicide applications to effective control weeds. Fewer tractor trips across the field mean reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced soil erosion, reduced soil compaction and enhanced water conservation.

How do consumers feel about sugar from biotechnology-enhanced sugar beet plants and products containing sugar form biotechnology-enhanced sugarbeet plants?
First, sugar is sugar. Independent scientific analyses have shown there is no difference between sugar from Roundup Ready sugarbeets or conventionally improved sugar crops. All that’s changed is the growing process and how growers manage weeds in the field.

Consumer attitudes regarding ingredients from biotechnology-enhanced plants have remained consistent over the past several years. A 2007 study of consumer trends conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) reported that awareness and perception of plant biotechnology are stable, with few consumer concerns about usage in food. According to consumer research, 73 percent of individuals surveyed believe sugar from biotechnology-enhanced sugarbeet plants used as a food ingredient was acceptable (Ipsos Reid, April 2002). In a previous survey, 69 percent of individuals surveyed felt it was acceptable to use biotechnology to enhance sugar (Axiom, 1999).

What are the benefits to growers who use biotechnology?
In general, biotechnology offers growers alternative ways to control weeds, insects and plant diseases and reduce herbicide applications, which means fewer trips across the field resulting in reduced fuel usage, reduced emissions, and reduced soil impact. Biotechnology thus allows growers to produce the highest-quality product in a cost-efficient and environmentally sustainable way, which is important to rural communities and their economies.

Are there any benefits for processors?
It is important to processors to have a sustainable and geographically diverse supply of sugar and this technology helps makes that possible. Also, using Roundup Ready sugar beets helps growers lessen impacts on the environment, while the sugar from Roundup Ready sugar beets is the same. In that scenario, we all win.

What is the status of biotechnology-enhanced sugar beets?
Roundup Ready sugar beets are commercially planted on a widespread basis in the 2008 growing season.

What is the status of biotechnology-enhanced sugar cane?
Experimental sugar cane varieties containing various biotech traits are being thoroughly evaluated around the world, with commercial planting anticipated in the next few years.

Do sugar and products derived from Roundup Ready sugar beets require labeling?
Since sugar is the same (identical at the molecular level), the majority of consumer markets around the world, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan, do not require labeling. Sugar from Roundup Ready sugar beets is not included on Japan’s list of ingredients requiring labeling due to the absence of detectable DNA and protein in the sugar.

Currently, the European Union and Russia are the only two jurisdictions that require labeling even if the ingredients derived from biotech-enhanced crops cannot be detected because they are physically and chemically identical to the same ingredients derived from non-biotech crops.

Regulatory

What is the regulatory status of Roundup Ready® sugar beets?
Roundup Ready sugar beets have been approved for production, and for food and feed uses, in the United States and Canada since 2005.

The United States exports small amounts of sugar and sugar-containing food products primarily to four key export markets – Japan, Canada, Mexico and the European Union – each of whom has granted regulatory approval to products derived from Roundup Ready sugar beets.

Sugar and other derived products are fully approved for food and feed uses in Japan, the European Union, Mexico, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Russia, China, Singapore and the Philippines.
Regulatory approvals are in progress for the other remaining export markets that have established biotech regulatory systems. Additional export markets allow imports even though they presently do not have formal regulations for importation of biotechnology-enhanced products, based on regulatory approval in the country of origin.

This broad international approval of Roundup Ready sugar beets and their derived products, including sugar, molasses, and pulp, supports commercial production of Roundup Ready sugar beets in the United States and Canada

Roundup® and Roundup Ready® are registered trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC.

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