GMO In Our Carbonated Soft Drink Biology Essay

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In the 21st century, genetically modified organisms, are now widely accepted in most of the food industry in the United States. However, based on some research, I am writing you a letter proposing why we should keep away from using GMO in our carbonated soft drink (CSD). I know that our company has been relying on sucrose (table sugar) from GM sugar beets as primary sugar source and not high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Being a regional purchaser of sugar, I discovered some interesting studies related to genetically modified sugar beets. First, GM sugar is becoming more popular in the United States; however, the government strictly regulates certain GMOs including sugar beets. Second, total costs for GM sugar might be higher than its total benefits in the long term. Third, some GMO products have negative impacts on consumer's health. For all these reasons, I am recommending our company to use sucrose from traditional sugar beets.

To start, let us examine what genetic modification means. By definition, "Genetic modification involves new methods that make it possible for scientists to create new plants and animals by taking genes from one plant, animal, or microorganism and inserting them into the cells of another plant or animal" (Hallman et al. 2003). This is done by genetic engineering since the conventional plant breeding methods are time consuming and most of the time yield inaccurate results. In the case of GM sugar beets, the plants are genetically modified with herbicide-tolerant genes provided by Monsanto Co. The genetic modification enables the farmers to use chemicals to weed their fields without causing any harm to their crops saving them time and effort (Charles, 2010). GM foods promise to answer the need for adequate food supply given the booming population through pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, and more nutrition content (Whitman, 2000).

According to Charles (2010), "a federal judge says sugar beet farmers can not plant genetically engineered varieties next year, and those farmers, who produce half of America's sugar, now are in a bind." The decision came as a response to the lawsuit filed by activist groups and biotechnology critics. They worry that the transplanted gene would stimulate the evolution of weeds that would be immune from glyphosate. Today, there are weeds that are confirmed to be glyphosate-resistant like marestail, common and giant ragweed, waterhemp, and Palmer pigweed while there are also other weeds that are becoming difficult to kill like cocklebur, lambsquarters, morning glory, and velvetleaf (Organic & Non-GMO Report,2008). The GM sugar beets can also contaminate non-GM sugar beets and other food crops through cross-pollination. The contamination can affect the farmers who chose to use conventional methods of breeding their crops and limit the consumers who prefer natural foods. The judge concluded that the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) had not fully considered the potential harm that the GM sugar beets could bring to the environment. The ruling means that farmers can not plant genetically modified sugar seeds unless it is deregulated by the USDA. In most of cases, the deregulation process of GMOs takes a long time and much effort. It will have to go through the three federal agencies: the USDA, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The process starts with sending a notification to USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) prior to any field tests and shipments of genetically modified plants. According to US Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology, to obtain deregulation, "the person developing the bio-engineered plant must submit a "petition for deregulation," discussing the plant's genetics, potential environmental impacts, and many other factors. If the petition is approved, then the bio-engineered plant is no longer considered regulated (Belson, 2000)." The agency then responds with an acknowledgement or denial after receiving an interstate movement letter or a notification of an environmental release (Belson, 2000). The tester must then send a report within six months after the field test. Before transportation and commercialization, APHIS must deregulate the product. A petition must be sent to the agency. It must include details about plant genetics, the nature and origin of the genetic material used, the field test reports and effects on other plants (Belson, 2000). The agency will then issue a response of either approved or rejected. Before this happens, the agency reviews the petition, taking into consideration the environmental impacts, the effect on wildlife, and its potential to become a weed or plant pest. The USDA has estimated that completing an environmental-impact statement could take until April 2012 (Kilma, 2012).

The total cost of using GM sugar this year might outweigh the benefits that the company can get. According to Wall Street Journal 2010, "food companies that depend on a steady supply of U.S. sugar face uncertainty over where they will source their sugar beets after next year (Kilman 2010)." This is the primary reason why we need to stay away from the GM sugar beets. We might still have one year to use GM sugar in our products but once GM sugar beets are no longer available for production, looking for GM sugar beets sources will yield extra costs. Eventually, it will increase the cost of the production and fewer consumers are going to purchase our product once price increases. On the other hand, HFCS can not be an alternative sugar source either. According to CNN health 2007, "researchers at Rutgers University identified compounds in HFCS which may start a chemical chain reaction, leading to diabetes." In general, the CSD industry has a bad reputation for selling the most fat-causing drink in American diet. I have no doubt that the continued use of GM sugars will increase resistance of customer puchasing soft drink, which will hurt our businesses in the long run.

Examining how the public perceive genetically modified foods, it was found that "Americans pay little attention to agricultural biotechnology, they do not have much knowledge about agricultural biotechnology, their opinion on the acceptability of GM foods is split, their opinion of GM food are easily influenced, demographics and styles of choosing food are related to acceptance of GM foods, and their stance on labeling of GM food is unclear (Hallman et al, 2003)". Considering that the public's knowledge on GM food is low, the continued usage of GM sugar beets may not severely affect our customer base. However, when they are presented with the harm that GM foods can cause, they can easily change their opinion. Using GM sugar will place the company at a disadvantage with its top competitor after they announced that they will avoid using sugar from GM plants.

Furthermore, there are some known health issues related to GMO. According to (Smith, 2010), "After feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the populations of organic food." This study indicates that organic food is somewhat risky by having unknown health effects in the future. We might face a serious law suit against us if we continue using GMOs within our product.

GMOs are a growing industry. Short term capital gain can boost our net profit margin by supplying cheaper GM sugars on our product. However, GM sugar beets are unstable crop that does not suit for maximizing long term capital gains. It is somewhat risky to replace GM sugar beets at this point. But we have to take this risk for our business' survival in the long term. Not using GM sugar now and increasing our products' price is the best option that we have at this point. Once we keep producing good quality products, long run capital gains will follow thereafter without GMOs. The company must take steps now to prepare for the adverse effect of the regulation of GM sugar beets. Pro-action is better than reaction. Therefore, we should stay away from GM sugars.

Macrotheme 2 References

Kilman, S. "Food Firms Jarred By Sugar-Beet Restriction." Wall Street Journal. 2010.

Belson, N. "US Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology: An Overview." AgBioForum, 3: 268-280. 2000.

Charles, D. "Sugar Beet Beatdown: Engineered Varieties Banned." NPR. 2010.

Smith, J. "Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility and Infant Mortality." Huffington Post. 2010. soy_b_544575.html

Hallman, W., Hebden, W., Aquino, H., Cuite, C., Lang, J. "Public Perceptions of Genetically Modified Foods: A National Study of American Knowledge and Opinion." Food Policy Institute. 2003.

Hellerman, Caleb. "Nutritionists: soda making americans drink themselves fat." Cnn health. September 18, 2007. , Web. . <>.

Whitman, D. "Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?" Proquest. 2000. cite as (Whitman, 2000).

Hallman, W., Hebden, W., Aquino, H., Cuite, C., Lang, J. "Public Perceptions of Genetically Modified Foods: A National Study of American Knowledge and Opinion." Food Policy Institute. 2003.

"Battle lines drawn over GM sugar beets." The Organic & Non-GMO Report. 2008.