Hershey’s refuses to use ND/MN sugarbeets due to GMOs

Published online: Jan 07, 2015 News

WAHPETON, N.D.—Increasing concern over genetically modified organisms in farming and food operations has resulted in The Hershey Company’s decision to no longer use the sugar produced from sugarbeets in its chocolate.

“As a consumer-centric company, we listen to our consumers and work to respond to their interests and expectations. Non-genetically modified ingredients is something our consumers are telling us is important to them,” said Jeff Beckman, director of corporate communications for The Hershey Company.

According to Beckman, consumer interest in buying products made with non-genetically modified ingredients has caused Hershey to buy mostly non-genetically modified sugar. Only non-genetically modified sugar is used in the production of Hershey’s key brands, such as chocolate bars and milk chocolate “Kisses.”

Hershey’s decision, although impactful, shouldn’t immediately cause alarm at Minn-Dak, explained David Berg, president and CEO of the American Crystal Sugar sugarbeet co-op, Moorhead, Minn. Both Minn-Dak and American Crystal Sugar’s operations extend into the production of cane sugar, which Hershey uses.

“It comes down to, do we ship from Wahpeton or from Florida? Cane sugar is not genetically modified, which makes it preferred to Hershey. Right now, we can rearrange the business, rearrange the shipping pattern for one of our customers, but it becomes a greater issue if a lot of our customers feel that way,” he said.

Berg reminds consumers that sugar produced from sugarbeets is genetically and chemically similar to cane sugar, calling the anti-genetically modified organism movement “purely emotional.”

“Genetic modification of crops is perfectly safe, and has been as long as it’s been around,” he said. “In the past, roughly, 20 years, trillions of meals with genetically-modified ingredients have been eaten. There is no safety issue. In fact, the bigger issue is the moral issue. Genetic modification allows food production for billions of people that cannot afford it any other way. I don’t think that’s an inflated number. I like to ask, are you willing to let a billion people starve because you oppose genetic modification? We at American Crystal Sugar are not willing to do it.”

The seed breeding process, Berg explained, takes multiple years to refine and change procedure. American Crystal Sugar is currently studying its options for crop production, since any decision will not be short-term.

“You don’t just say one year you’re going to grow genetically-modified crops, the next year you aren’t,” he said.

Although he is aware of consumer concerns and doesn’t dismiss them, Berg said he thinks they are misplaced.

“By keeping farmers from raising their crops, (the anti-modification movement is) taking away choices for those who don’t have that concern. To use an example, it’s like people who think convertible cars are wrong. OK, then you shouldn’t buy them. But others should have the right to.”

Kurt Wickstrom, president and CEO of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, could not be reached for comment on the decision.

Source: www.wahpetondailynews.com