Quick Profits from Organic Sugar: Deforestation is the Way

Paraguay

Organic Sugar Mill, Paraguay

Most organic sugar used in US foods comes from sugarcane crops grown in Paraguay. When converting an existing field to organic, a company needs to wait three years since the last pesticide spray was made before being certified as organic. With a desire for large profits, sugar companies are clearing forests so that sugarcane fields can be immediately certified as organic.

“The Ybytymi hills of eastern Paraguay are crowded with mango trees, palms, and gnarled cacti.

It’s one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, home to jaguars, tapirs, a plethora of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 500 species of birds.

In a remote area known as Isla Alta, the forest abruptly halts at the edge of sugar fields. The land belongs to a company called Azucarera Paraguaya (AZPA), one of the country’s chief sugar producers and the supplier of nearly one-third of the organic sugar consumed in the United States. If you’ve ever eaten a bowl of Cascadian Farm breakfast cereal or had a glass of Silk soy milk, you’ve probably enjoyed some of its harvest.

Organic producers have little incentive not to clear land, says Laura Raynolds, codirector of the Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies at Colorado State University.

This dynamic was evident when I visited Paraguay, where AZPA has been looking for additional land to grow more organic cane to feed the American market. Converting its conventionally farmed fields to organic would take three years, during which it would have to use more expensive organic methods on “transitional” crops that must be sold at the lower conventional price. A more attractive approach is to establish new fields where forest once grew; then, the cane can fetch the higher organic price from the first harvest.”

Author: Rogers, H.
Affiliation: Journalist.
Title: Sweet & lowdown organic
Source: Mother Jones. May/June 2010. Pgs. 58-59, 79.

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