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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Organic Sugarbeets from Austria: Fungicide Use and Lots of Handweeding

Organic Sugar

Organic Sugar

There is a retail market for organic sugar in the EU and until recently the demand was met with imports of organic sugar from Latin America. British Sugar began producing organic sugar in the UK in 2002 but abandoned the organic line because it was not commercially viable. Now, a small number of sugarbeet growers in Austria are growing organic sugarbeets. Without herbicides for weed control, these growers need an enormous amount of hand labor. For disease control, the organic growers spray copper fungicides.

“In the past organic sugar from sugar cane was imported to Europe. In 2008 AGRANA started to contract organic sugar beet… In 2008 organic sugar beet was grown by 105 farmers on 323 ha. Up to 2011 the organic beet area was increased to 913 ha and reached about 2% of the Austrian sugar beet acreage.

Weed control is a major issue in production of organic beet. Farmers are using harrows and inter row cultivators for mechanical weed control. In addition, an enormous input of hand labour is required, on average there is the need for 200 hours per hectare.

Control of Cercospora leaf spot and powdery mildew is carried out by spraying fungicides containing copper or sulfur. Normally two or three sprayings with copper products are required to control Cercospora. It is allowed to apply up to 2 kg Copper per hectare and year.”

Authors: Kempl, F., et al.
Affiliation: AGRANA Zucker GmbH.
Title: Organically grown beets? A growing segment in the Austrian sugar production.
Source: 73ed IIRB Congress. 2012. Proceedings of Papers:183-186.