GMO, glyphosate, sugarcane, desiccant… Four words I never wanted to hear together, but that confirm there are other foods sprayed with glyphosate, the world’s number-one selling herbicide.

Since 2003, when Jeffrey Smith started ringing the alarm bells, the real food community has come to realize just how treacherous GMOs are to the human body. What many of us may not have distinguished–I’m calling it denial on my part–is that glyphosate may be even MORE dangerous than GMOs. (Education here.)

If that weren’t bad news enough, come to find out glyphosate contamination is considerably more widespread in the food supply than we imagined.

As soon as we found out the truth about genetically modified organisms, we stopped eating the GMOs we knew about: soy, corn, cottonseed (some people stopped wearing GM cotton clothing), canola, papaya, zucchini and yellow squash. Then sweet corn. Now potatoes. Next alfalfa. And–a horror–salmon.

Genetically Modified Sugarcane

A search for “sugarcane and genetic modification” reveals that the biotech industry tried it with no success. Darn it. In fact, in this 2003 paper on GM sugarcane, the author states:

“Current community attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) plants are quite negative, with the sugar industry having apparently accepted the view that sugar from genetically modified cane is regarded so badly by consumers at the present time that it could not be marketed successfully.” GOOD!

Although that hasn’t completely stopped them. Turns out, biotech is still working on a GM sugarcane. And why not? Since you can leave out all sorts of pertinent details in your marketing and labeling, maybe consumers won’t realize their sugar has been messed with until it’s too late.

So, a year ago, I wrote to Domino’s Sugar and asked once and for all if their sugar cane was genetically modified. The woman I spoke to on the phone said, “No. And it never will be!” Yay.

“Plus,” my new Domino’s friend continued, “we’re talking to the Non-GMO project about verification.” Wow, that’s a darn good answer! Beet sugar be damned, cane sugar was SAFE. And not just any ole cane: familiar ole Domino’s, found in every grocery store baking supplies’ section. So not every single thing about my kitchen had to change to the most expensive option–yay!

Since then, I’ve been spreading the good news whenever the topic comes up, as have many of you: “Still buying white sugar? Make sure it says cane on the package or else it’s beet and GMO!”

Then my DH, spurred on by one of Liz’s articles on glyphosate, started researching the stuff. Glyphosate, if you don’t already know, is the main ingredient in Roundup and primarily used on GMO crops to kill the weeds. GM vegetables are created specifically to be Roundup-ready: the “food” won’t die but the pests and weeds will.

By the way, GM foods are resistant ONLY to Roundup, not to any other pesticide or herbicide. Just Monsanto’s Roundup:

“John E. Franz is an organic chemist who discovered the herbicide glyphosate while working at Monsanto Company in 1970. The chemical became the active ingredient in Roundup, a broad-spectrum, post-emergence herbicide. Franz has earned much acclaim and many rewards for this breakthrough. He also has over 840 patents to his name worldwide.” [Resource]

DH was dismayed–shocked, actually–by the discovery that glyphosate is also used as a dessicant and/or ripener for a bunch of non-GMO products that we are were still eating. Like wheat. And, gulp, sugarcane.

“Glyphosate is not only used for genetically engineered (GMO) crops created to be resistant to it, but it is also used on non-GMO crops including sugar cane fields prior to harvest as a ‘ripener.’ So, even when you buy pure cane sugar to avoid genetically engineered sugar beets, you still get a good dose of Glyphosate in your package.” —Farm Wars

I immediately wrote to my friend at Domino’s and asked if glyphosate came into contact with their products at any point during the growth and/or harvest. She wrote back with tons of info on how sugarcane is harvested… but didn’t answer my question. Uh oh. I wrote back, thanked her for the information and asked again. She never wrote back.

I went back into my pantry and stared at the 25 lb bag of poisoned Domino’s on the shelf. Damn. Why 25 lbs? For homemade kombucha, of all things. Can you heal your gut with a substance known to cause the very problem you are trying to heal??? ARGH.

Quick Glyphosate FAQs

In talking to our real friends at the Non-GMO Project, I cleared up a little of the confusion in my head on the topic of GMOs and glyphosate. For instance:

  • Glyphosate is not genetically modified. In my mind, GMOs and glyphosate were interchangeable. They are not. It is safe to assume that all GM foods have been sprayed with glyphosate. It’s just that now we know those aren’t the only foods.
  • Foods sprayed with glyphosate can still be Non-GMO Project verified. That verification exists for GM contamination only and does not account for pesticide/herbicide use.

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What other foods are contaminated with glyphosate?

More on Glyphosate

Like in the Farm Wars article, the information has been out there, I just didn’t think to look. Here’s what I read in my research, both from real food and bio-tech industry blogs:

  • From Moms Across America: Sugar cane and stevia, which make up a much smaller percentage of our sweetener sources, but are still used, are directly sprayed with glyphosate as a drying agent during harvest. So ALL our sugar sources except for organic crops, are contaminated with glyphosate, especially GMOs, which are repeatedly sprayed.
  • From Sayer Ji at Green Med Info: Glyphosate is used not only on Roundup Ready crops, but also on glyphosate-sensitive sugar cane and wheat shortly before harvest, when it acts as a dessicant. It’s also used as a dessicant on Roundup Ready sugar beets, canola, and cottonseed for oils, among others.
  • From BioOne re. Herbicides as Ripeners for Sugarcane: Chemical ripening of sugarcane is an important component to profitable sugar production in the United States as well as other sugarcane industries throughout the world. Harvesting of sugarcane often begins before the sugarcane reaches the desirable maturity level. This is especially true in the Louisiana sugarcane industry where the window for harvesting is limited because of the risk of freezing temperatures encountered in a temperate climate. Research on the application of chemicals, mostly of herbicide origin, to enhance sucrose accumulation (ripening) or limit flowering to conserve stored sucrose has been conducted for more than 60 yr. The only sugarcane ripener currently registered for use in the United States is glyphosate applied before harvest.

What other non-GM crops are sprayed with Roundup? Not including your neighbors lawn… If you know of them, please share in the comments. Thank you!

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