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Organic Consumers Association

Monsanto Beets Lead to Kellogg's Boycott

Web Note: In answer to the two big questions posed by the following article (why a boycott? and why Kelloggs?), OCA staffer Ryan Zinn says:

  • OCA and numerous other faith-based, consumer advocacy, and farmer-focused organizations have been engaged in advocacy campaigns targeting Kellogg's for at least a decade. On the genetically engineered sugar beets issue alone, OCA network members sent over 15 thousand letters to Kellogg's before we considered launching a boycott.
  • OCA has targeted Kellogg's for several reasons.
  • First, for most of Kellogg's foods, the switch is from conventional sugar to genetically modified sugar, whereas for candy companies like M&M/Mars and Hershey's they'll just be replacing genetically engineered high-fructose corn syrup with genetically engineered sugar sourced from sugar beets, which doesn't reduce the total amount of genetically engineered ingredients in the food supply.
  • Second, Kellogg's has admitted that they wouldn't use GE sugar in foods sold in Europe, but they feel that US consumers don't care, so it's alright to feed us GE sugar.
  • Finally, we believe Kellogg's will react to consumer pressure. It owns several subsidiary lines in the natural products sector that have responded to consumer concerns over genetically engineered ingredients. For instance, Morningstar Farms, a leading vegetarian brand, responded to the vegetarian community's demands by adding a line of products made with organic soy and certified to USDA standards as more than 70% organic.
  • For more information on GE sugar and the boycott against Kellogg's, please visit: http://www.organicconsumers.org/kelloggs.cfm

The Organic Consumers Association has called for a boycott of Kellogg's products because the company indicated it won't have a problem using sugar from genetically modified sugar beets.

The issue grew out of a November New York Times article noting that farmers will, for the first time, be planting "Roundup-ready" beets engineered to resist Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. No one is using the sugar yet, including Kellogg's, but the opportunity is on the way.

Seven years ago, beet breeders were on the verge of introducing Roundup-resistant seeds. But they had to pull back after sugar-using food companies like Hershey and Mars, fearing consumer resistance, balked at the idea of biotech beets. Now, though, sensing that those concerns have subsided, many processors have cleared their growers to plant the Roundup-resistant beets next spring.

It would be the first new type of genetically engineered food crop widely grown since the 1990s, when biotech soybeans, corn and a few other crops entered the market.

"Basically, we have not run into resistance," said David Berg, president of American Crystal Sugar, the nation's largest sugar beet processor. "We really think that consumer attitudes have come to accept food from biotechnology."

The interesting point to me is that Kellogg's told the consumers group it would not use GMO sugar for products sold in Europe. All of its European products are "free of any ingredients derived from biotech sources." But they don't think U.S. customers care, and "consumer preference is the critical factor Kellogg uses in determining the products being provided in every market." In short, if we objected to genetically modified food the way Europeans do, they wouldn't put it on our food either.

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