Quick Profits from Organic Sugar: Deforestation is the Way


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.

Weed from Hell Invades Florida

Tropical Soda Apple

Tropical Soda Apple

Tropical soda apple (TSA) is a weed native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay that has invaded Florida. The pathway of introduction is unknown, but it may have been accidentally introduced with cattle carrying undigested TSA seeds. Currently, more than 404,000 acres are believed infested in Florida. TSA invades pasture, where it reduces livestock carrying capacity. Dense stands of the prickly shrub prevent cattle access to shaded areas, which results in summer heat stress and economic losses from cattle heat stress have been estimated at $2 million. TSA is a reservoir for at least six crop viruses; in addition, major insect pests use TSA as an alternate host. Herbicides are a major management practice for this “weed from hell.”

“Tropical soda apple (TSA) is an invasive weed of agricultural and natural areas in Florida. The plant is native to South America and was first found in south Florida in 1988. Its spiny foliage and stems are unpalatable to livestock, and dense stands of this prickly plant often grow into large impenetrable thickets.

In some areas of central and south Florida, TSA has covered entire pastures, rendering them unusable for grazing livestock. Some have called this weed the “plant from hell”.

The preferred methods of TSA control were chemical herbicides and mowing. On a statewide basis, 20% of cattle producers used herbicides alone, 7% used mowing alone, and 20% used both methods. Triclopyr and glyphosate were the two most commonly used herbicides reported by cattle producers. However, many had begun using amino-pyralid, an herbicide registered for use in pasture and rangeland in 2005, and becoming the new standard for TSA control. With continued TSA spread and the absence of alternative effective control measures, it is likely that the demand for these herbicides will continue to grow.”

Authors: Salaudeen, T., et al.
Affiliation: College of Agriculture, Florida A&M University.
Title: Economic impact of tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum) on Florida cattle production.
Source: Weed Technology. 2013. 27:389-394.