Trade discord and GMO controversy may sour sugar business
- Disputed trade agreements on sugar between the U.S. and Mexico could threaten imports of Mexican raw cane sugar and exports of high-fructose corn syrup, while at the same time leaving U.S. refiners short of raw material.
The agreement was designed to replace U.S. taxes imposed by the U.S. on Mexican sugar imports less than two years ago, after Mexican subsidized sugar entered the U.S. market at 40% below fair-market prices. In response, Mexico started exporting more sugar that could bypass U.S. refineries to be ready for consumption.
Because beet sugar comes from crops grown mostly from bioengineered seed, demand for the domestically grown product is lower.
Some pressure on the sugar industry was relieved when President Obama signed bipartisan legislation to enact a consistent national standard for GMO labeling in late July. The federal law would not require GMO labeling on refined beet sugar because, according to the FDA, they don't meet the law's definition of "bioengineering" and may not contain genetic material.
Even without the problems facing refiners, the sugar industry is at a precarious spot. Dietary Guidelines for Americans has recommended that no more than 10% of daily calories come from added sugars, so the search for replacements has been ongoing. At the same time, many consumers are looking for options that are more healthy, so consumption of sugar is also dropping.
- Food Business News U.S. sugar market seeking equilibrium