Hershey dumps sugar for… sugar. For food companies in GMO crosshairs, perception trumps science

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Like most Americans, I had never heard of sugarbeets before I started researching genetically engineered crops. I don’t give much thought to the source of my sugar because I rarely use it (I’m salty, not sweet, as some of you may already know) and certainly never think about where the sugar in a Kit Kat comes from.

Apparently, over half of the sugar produced in the U.S. is from sugarbeets, a vegetable that grows underground kind of like a carrot. More than 5 million tons of sugar are manufactured each year from American sugarbeets. You’ve been eating it for years and probably didn’t even know because it’s end product, sucrose, is molecularly identical to cane sugar.

a23aefcf6838cd962a8f3bea9c8a4f56But this poor veggie is now under attack by anti-GMO activists because sugarbeets are grown from genetically engineered seeds. Sadly, some sugar and candy companies — desperate for any health imprimatur as sugar is increasingly blamed for making us fat and sick — are dumping beet sugar. Why? Well, because, they are a GMO. I guess if the companies can console their sugar-eating customers that at least their obesity and diabetes will be GMO-free, that’ll make everyone feel better.

Hershey’s announced last year that it would stop using beet sugar so it could claim its products are GMO-free. The company’s spokesman told me why in an email:

As a consumer-centric company, we listen to our consumers and work to respond to their interests and expectations. Non-GM ingredients is something our consumers are telling us is important to them. We have seen consumers’ interest in buying products made with non-GM ingredients grow, which is why we have shifted to buying mostly non-GM sugar and using 100% non-GM sugar for key brands.

At the same time, the company candidly says there’s nothing wrong with sugarbeets:

GM ingredients are safe.  The international scientific community, including the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization….and the National Academy of Science have all examined the health and environmental safety of plant biotechnology. These organizations have concluded that GM ingredients are safe for human consumption.

So, a company that has safely used an ingredient for years — and still believes is safe – nonetheless will stop using the safe product because some consumers have been snookered into believing it’s unsafe. I see. And that same company will replace some American-grown sugar with “cane sugar from the same major sugar companies that also sell granulated sugar to consumers… most of that sugar is grow throughout Latin America.”

Got it.

The backstory here is that an activist group – GMO Inside – petitioned Hershey’s for two years, demanding the company stop using GMO sugar. Instead of telling them to Kiss Off (pun intended), Hershey’s capitulated, insisting they were responding to “consumers.”

Sorry, Hershey’s, no way in hell does anyone believe that millions of American housewives were scanning the ingredient list on the back of Kisses packages to see if they contained beet sugar (99.99 percent of the moms I know have no idea such a thing exists; I would be the other .01), then Facebooking and Tweeting Hershey’s to demand they get rid of the stuff.

To be fair, Hershey’s isn’t the only major food company to go sour on sugarbeets. Domino’s sugar products now have the Non-GMO Project’s butterfly logo, which means the company paid big bucks to tell consumers virtually nothing.dom-nongmo-subpage

And since corporate marketing departments aren’t exactly known for originality, we can expect to see more food companies follow suit.

What’s the issue with GMO sugarbeets?

So what do activists have against the sugarbeet? I talked to Luther Markwart, executive VP of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, which represents more than 10,000 farmers in 11 states. Markwart has sugarbeets in his blood so to speak; he grew up on a sugarbeet farm in Michigan (before the crop was genetically modified) where he would have to pull weeds on for five miles. “It was horrible work,” he said. “I hate weeds.”

About a decade ago, sugarbeet farmers approached biotech companies to help find a new way to stop the weed problem. Now for those of us who aren’t farmers, a weed problem on a farm isn’t the same thing as the weed problem in your suburban yard or brick paver driveway. Weeds kill crops, choke off needed resources like water and soil nutrients and require a lot of manpower (not to mention chemicals) to get rid of them.

A German seed company along with Monsanto developed a seed that tweaked the sugarbeet; instead of 27,421 genes, the new sugarbeet had 27,422 genes. The extra gene allowed the plant to tolerate an herbicide that would kill the weeds but not damage, poison or in any material way affect the sugarbeet. After several years of testing the crop and regulatory review, the new genetically engineered sugarbeet was approved for use. The association identified 25 environmental benefits from the GE sugarbeet, including fewer pesticides, less water usage, healthier plants and higher yields.

The genetically modified sugarbeets go through an extensive processing that destroys and removes any DNA. The beet is chopped up and diffused in huge pressure cookers to extract the sucrose in the form of raw juice. That juice is then clarified into a thin juice, which is where the DNA is removed. An evaporation process boils off most of the water from the juice, which is then crystalized into sugar. Voila!

Just to make sure the end product contained no DNA (that would mean no GMO ingredient), the industry hired an outside firm to test samples during every step of the process. By the time the sugarbeet got to the thin juice stage, neither DNA nor protein could be detected. The sugar is GMO-free even if it’s from a sugarbeet. And the ends result shows no difference between sugar from sugar cane or from a sugarbeet. Even rabid anti-GMOers  cannot find any trace of the genetic engineering process in the final product. Sugar is sugar is sugar.

“Sucrose is sucrose,” Markwart said. “This is all about perception, not about science.”

Which is almost entirely the case with the GMO controversy. The most discouraging part is when companies that know the science nevertheless feed the ‘scare’ perceptions by capitulating to activists to don a fake health halo instead of just standing up for science and common sense, and challenging them. That should leave a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.

Julie Kelly is a cooking teacher and food policy writer. She’s a National Review Online contributor and has been published in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Forbes and Huffington Post. Follow me on Twitter @julie_kelly2

  • Schratboy

    The GMO science is so contrived as to resemble a comic book where the GMO plants are super-heros, able to withstand being sprayed with toxins and poisons and still survive, then move on into the food chain and look just like all the other (veggie) people. Funny thing is, when the rest of the people find out about their toxic neighbor, who appears to be substantially equivalent, but tends towards binding essential nutrients and disrupting gut biomes to the extent the rest try to distance themselves and choose not to associate. You can can claim a clean (DNA) background but you can’t change one’s corrupt and contaminated lineage.

    • RobertWager
    • Roy Williams

      Schrathboy,

      Apparently you are unaware of the toxicity of chemicals that are used on conventional crops, and in a surprising number of cases, on “organic” crops.
      I have some training in chemistry, and have some appreciation of toxicity, so I don’t rely on what others say about the threat of chemical residues on plants. I will tell you that I much prefer consuming products from genetically engineered crops that I know are produced according to U.S. standards of safety and that I know are produced in processing plant that operates under U.S. inspection. I am NOT worried about safety, because no one has produced any evidence that there is any harm from the incredibly tiny amount of chemical residue that is found on some food products.

      Indeed the only real and present danger in food is the presence of bacteria that cause food poisoning, and the tendency of too many people to eat too much and thereby causing extensive obesity-related disease. If you actually care about the safety of food, those are the real issues, that cost every one of use in increased medical insurance premiums. You are doing a disservice to public health by diverting attention from actual, verifiable problems to phantom issues that have never been demonstrated.

      It is highly regrettable that companies like Hershey’s do not accept their burden of corporate responsibility to help customers understand that (1) there are many benefits of using products from genetically engineered crops (cost, less environmental impact, much more extensively tested than conventional crops), and (2) the many bad things associated with using products produced in a foreign country (safety, extensive use of heavy manual labor, low yields leading to still more forests being cleared, lack of U.S. processing standards – as mem_somerville mentioned).

      I want Hershey’s to continue making a profit, as I like to occasionally consume their products. But they are being irresponsible this latest marketing tactic.

    • J. Randall Stewart

      I farm 70% non-GMO, and I spray my GMO crops less than my non-GMO crops.

      You are believing a common lie told by the anti-GMO crowd. The truth is that my GMO farming uses zero insecticides and a more gentle herbicide.

      I’m looking forward to using recently released GMO traits that will provide even more benefits. 1)a low-lignin alfalfa which will be more nutritious. 2)a GMO trait that will make potatoes resistant to late-blight. Currently, I spray three fungicides, rotating one each week for the second half of the growing season to battle late blight.

    • “tends towards binding essential nutrients and disrupting gut biomes…”
      lol. LEGITIMATE citation needed.

  • mem_somerville

    I just saw this announcement that we can expect more imported sugar. From places where the poor cane workers suffer from kidney disease.

    http://www.agweek.com/news/nation-and-world/3953308-usda-concerned-about-raw-sugar-supplies-non-gmo-sugar-trend

    Yay anti-GMO forces! Share that harm around the globe!

    • RobertWager

      What a pity. Got it back assward the eNGO’s do.

  • kfunk937

    The “controversy” surrounding sugar derived from GE sugarbeets versus cane annoys me personally. I grew up partly in an area dependent on Heinz and GM for non-agricultural employment (the Heinz plant has since closed, leaving what was formerly GM* Sugar the major employer). Not only are the farmers hurt in this FUD marketing-driven shift, but a small town’s largest employer stands to close.All over a product that is genetically, chemically and subjectively indistinguishable from its non-GE counterpart.* “GM” in this case having nothing to do with genetic modification, just the company’s name.This is part of the reason I will go out of my way to avoid purchasing any product labeled GMO-Free or Certified Organic. Aside from cost, lack of benefit, and potential increase in harms, that is. I feel the same way about gluten-free on products that never contained gluten to begin with, for that matter, although that’s just because it’s insulting. Leave them on the shelf.

    • Roy Williams

      I fully support your position, kfunk937, and I also avoid those labels.

      • gmoeater

        I do, too. Non-GMO may cater to the brainless followers of political activists, but doesn’t tell me anything except “Hype. Put it back and buy the competitor’s product.” Hershey’s is no longer welcome in my house.

        • Kyle Ness

          I will Not buy any product that says Non GMO or Organic just as any company that makes food products in other countries, ships it here.

    • FaunaAndFlora

      A note on “gluten-free on products that never contained gluten to begin with” from someone who has to avoid gluten… many foods are processed on equipment that also processes wheat. This is why I won’t buy rice, beans and lentils, nuts, peanuts and popcorn or products that are made with these foods that haven’t been certified as gluten-free. Gluten can also be a hidden ingredient in other products such as chocolate candy, barbecue sauces, bleu cheese and so on. I had no idea how many products either contained or were contaminated by wheat and/or gluten until I had to start avoiding it.

      • kfunk937

        I was referring to bottled water, apple cider, and meat.Your points are completely relevant, e.g. to products that share processing equipment, and I’m sensitive to the needs of truly gluten-intolerant folks (say, those with actual celiac disease, among others). But for most, it’s a marketing gimmick and panders to the worried well, rather than those with true, life-threatening issues.

        • FaunaAndFlora

          I agree that it’s ridiculous to put a gluten-free label on bottled water or apple cider, but maybe not on processed meats that often use fillers and emulsifiers.

    • agscienceliterate

      Me too.

    • Rhonda Smit

      kfunk937, I thought I was the only one to boycott organic, GMO free, gluten free or my favorite, those cholesterol free nuts. Growing up in Europe, sugar comes from sugar beets, and cane sugar was the ‘strange’ source. Our area grew a lot of sugar beets. We carved them in fall like you do with pumpkins… Beet-o-lanterns, really. So glad to find I am not the only one who is on to the “organic scam”: Pay more for inferior food.

    • Eric Bjerregaard

      I avoid these labels as well. Plus I don’t even trade with the organic growers at my market anymore. When the market put out a photo on FB about healthy organic produce. I posted a study that disagreed. Hopefully resistance is not futile. Though I would never resist 7 of 9.

  • Matt R

    One minor quibble. As you rightly point out later in your article, there is no DNA in sugar. But earlier you said that beet sugar is “genetically identical to cane sugar.” I believe you meant something like “chemically” or “molecularly.” (Which would bring up another tiny quibble, in that there is a different carbon isotope in cane sugar and corn derivatives versus that in beet sugar.)

    Then again, the vast majority of people want to label “DNA” in our foods, so the distinction is probably totally lost on the public:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/01/17/over-80-percent-of-americans-support-mandatory-labels-on-foods-containing-dna/

    Otherwise, a great piece.

    • JR

      A different carbon isotope? With Carbon-12 being 98.9% abundant, I don’t see how small change in the C12:C13:C14 ratio from geographic differences in that distribution would make a real difference.

    • Julie Kelly

      Yes. great point. Molecularly would be a better choice of words. Thank you!

    • Julie Kelly

      Changed above! Thanks for the heads-up!

    • Isotope difference? How so?

      • Jackson

        I believe sugar cane is a C4 grass, and sugar beets are a C3 dicot. The initial carbon fixing enzymes have a slight difference in isotope selectivity between either C13 or C14 CO2.

        • Cool. I didn’t have any idea! Thanks.

          But does C14-based sugar taste different from C13-based sugar, when the majority of the carbon is C12?

          • Jackson

            Nope! Not unless you have a mass spectrometer in your mouth.

          • How do you know I don’t? ;)

  • WeGotta

    Nope. I reject the whole notion outright.

    People can buy what they want for whatever reason they want. Nobody has to clear any of their consumer choices through the relevant experts in the field.

    Nobody has to consult a fashion expert before picking one dress over another.
    Nobody needs the consent of an automobile engineer before choosing one car over another.
    Nobody needs the blessing of a doctor before choosing to eat a lifetime of processed junk food instead of real food.

    And definitely, no one needs the understanding of a plant biologist or lobbyist’s wife before they choose which sugar they’d rather eat.
    In fact, if you are curious about which sugar you should eat, the best scientific response would be “none of them”.

    Get over yourselves already. How many other consumer choices must be cleared through some relevant expert?

    • mem_somerville

      So you want the chance to choose from these producers? Go cane!

      https://twitter.com/mem_somerville/status/682311559272644608

      • WeGotta

        I would prefer if all people evaluated all of their choices. We can start with sugar cane if you want. There’s a powerful scientific, environmental and common sense argument to be made that we eat way too much of it.
        If we all ate less it would be great for our health and the environment.

        I guess you are a big “buy local” supporter?

        So scientists should advocate eating less sugar.

        • JR

          Scientists already do advocate for reducing unnecessary sugar intake. Plus, the article is specifically about Hershey’s choice to switch to a non-GMO source of sugar, so the “we should just advocate for eating less sugar” argument rings rather hollowly.

          The main issue here is one of sustainability, environmental friendliness, and monetary costs. Is cane sugar raised in a better way than GMO sugar beets?

          • WeGotta

            Don’t accuse me of hollow arguments based on a response I made to someone’s question.

            The main issue SHOULD be sustainability, environmental friendliness, and overall monetary costs but it’s not. I wish it was.

            If it were this question might come up:
            Why not just close down Hershey?

            The main issue of this article is an attempt to kowtow consumers into choosing one product over another “because of science”. Why this consumer choice as opposed to any other? Surely people make more important choices such as to continue to use one and done throw away plastic utensils.
            Why not shame those who buy V8 engines?

          • Jason

            People do shame those that buy V8 engines.

            The article here is about kow-towing to ignorance rather than to what’s a better environmental decision.

            As someone who claims to be rather opposed to the actions of junk food makers to paint their product as healthful, I’d think you’d be staunchly opposed to this. But you’re not….. says a little bit about your true intentions… doesn’t it?

          • WeGotta

            Opposed to what? You lost me.

            The seed of intention is greed, so it’s tainted from the start.
            It’s not a genuine attempt to inform people as to help them but it does contain some truth; like all things do.

          • Jason

            Opposed to Hershey switching to “non-GMO sugar” to capitalize on a more healthy perception.

            Of course it’s for greed… and of course it’s not a genuine attempt to help people. In fact, it’s the exact opposite… it’s a genuine attempt to make people think that their candy bars are more healthier than they actually are. Which is why it’s surprising you aren’t opposing this move.

          • WeGotta

            Okay, I see. All true.

            I never said I supported Hershey’s ad campaigns; this one or any other in the past.
            It’s a calculated marketing move like any other made by any other company.

            That’s why it strikes me as odd that this particular one drives some people so crazy as opposed to all others.

            Why this one particular consumer choice? People don’t consult experts before they shop. If they were “informed” they would shop much less.

          • Jason

            But it’s those “calculated marketing moves” that you are so often railing against.

            Anyway… I’m not sure your analogy is accurate… people don’t consult experts before they shop?? Many do! I do… when what I am shopping for is something i’m not well informed on. Like, buying a car. Or how many people seek the help of a nutritionist. It’s not uncommon.

            I’m not opposed to consumer choice at all. I am opposed to decisions made on misinformation, particularly when they are at the detriment of the overall environment that we share.

            Anyone proposing that we ought to be replacing sugar beet fields with more cane fields really needs to take a hard look at cane farming.

          • WeGotta

            Ya, we can research a consumer choice. But I don’t think the car experts are going to be writing any articles about how people are anti-science if they choose ford over chevy.

            Advertising is basically misinformation. Scientifically robust misinformation. In other words, aided by science to deceive us.

            I think people need to accept that cutting back is the best solution and they should realize that it’s not “bad” to consume less. It’s actually very freeing.

          • Jason

            No one’s saying car experts are. But experts can tell me the deference between features I may not be familiar with so that I can make an informed decision. Just like people could do if they really were wondering about the difference between cane & beet sugar.

          • WeGotta

            True.
            But it wouldn’t be anywhere near complete to say the only difference between cane and beet sugar (or gmo beet sugar and non-gmo beet sugar) is “there is no difference” so use ours because it’s already here.

          • agscienceliterate

            It is exactly the opposite, you are right. It hurts U.S GE sugar beet farmers, and has us rely on whatever kind of sugar (?) they get from Central or South America, who knows what, how it’s raised, how it’s harvested, who’s pooping in the sugar cane fields, how little they get paid, yadda yadda. For what? Sugar. Molecularly identical to GE sugar. I emailed Hershey’s, and they said they were responding to “consumer demand.” Well, consumers want DNA labeled, so that is indeed a very low bar. Sugar is sugar, and my chocolate is certainly not Hershey’s anymore. I do not support campaigns that focus on the lowest common IQ denomenator fueled by anti-GE activists who don’t give a damn about our local sustainable sugar beet farmers.

          • Jason

            Yah… I’m not opposed to responding to consumer demand, but clearly, in this case, it is ill informed.

          • agscienceliterate

            Ill informed, certainly. And also hurtful to local agriculture, which is part of sustainability in the activist playbook. Until it’s from a GE crop, that is. Catering to uninformed shoppers, driven solely by political activism promoted by the mega-buck organic industry in order to drive market shares to organic, will get them what they deserve – a loss of my business and yours.

          • Jason

            Personally, I feel they’d have scored a lot more points with an informative campaign on why they use sugar locally and how it helps. But, that’s one man’s opinion, I guess.

          • agscienceliterate

            Exactly! But that wouldn’t cater to the activists who go nuts that the exact same sugar came from GE sugar beets. I agree with you, that Hershey’s should have pointed out the local sugar connection. And a short note, maybe, that all sugar is molecularly identical, regardless of its source. Then I could still buy their stuff. Right now? Nope.

          • agscienceliterate

            There is a huge difference between profit and greed. The knee-jerk activists appear to believe that any profit equals greed.

          • agscienceliterate

            He’s only opposed to GE junk food. That has been clear in all of his postings.

        • mem_somerville

          I would rather north American farmers were supplying the sugar, yes. Because I’ve been following the tragic stories of kidney disease in places whose laws and enforcement are not so great: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/02/04/383628551/new-clues-to-mysterious-kidney-disease-afflicting-sugar-cane-workers

          I don’t care if you are an ascetic self-flagellator and deny yourself sugar. The fact remains that this major producer’s choices will have broader environmental impact. And some of it could be much worse than a US family farm.

          • WeGotta

            I agree with your conclusions.

    • Julie Kelly

      So I am a “lobbyist’s wife” and not worthy of my own identity?
      At least I have the guts to use my own name and not hide behind an Internet pseudonym. And if you find my opinion as a “lobbyist’s wife” so useless, stop trolling all of my pieces and commenting on them. I actually feel sorry for you.

      • WeGotta

        Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m great! I practice gratitude and spend dedicated time each day counting my blessings. This is scientifically proven to bring joy into your life.

        I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t think you are “useless”. You seem strong and capable and very lucky. I just hope you feel lots of love and peace in your life because it doesn’t come through in your writing.

        My point is that no one needs your blessing before they choose sunglasses or sugar. Nor do they need mine.

        • Julie Kelly

          I am blessed beyond measure, that’s one reason I am engaged (voluntarily) in this issue – to make sure people who really need this technology around the world have access to it and aren’t punished because of political/ideological pressures here in the U.S. There’s no question that the activism here by organic companies and environmental organizations that oppose biotechnology are impacting how this is viewed around the world. If you want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with folks who want to prevent subsistent farmers and malnourished kids from having access to new crops that can change their lives, that’s fine. I choose not to.
          I also think food companies who cave to bullies are weak and should be called out. I have no dog in this fight – I will go after a corporation or a celebrity chef.
          My activism is no less passionate or purposeful than many on the other side. I won’t go tear up GMO crops but I will write. That’s my weapon. I view this as a battle and address it accordingly. Some people don’t like my tone or approach, even some on this side, but I don’t care. I have my own voice (not just as a lobbyist’s wife) and will use it to expose the hypocrisy and harm done by many on the anti-GMO side.

          • WeGotta

            That’s great. I’m glad.

            More people should get involved.
            My choice of words in response to your writing mirror that same strong and admonishing tone. I hope you are not injured by what I write.

            Rock on with yourself and I’ll do the same.

          • Julie Kelly

            Nah, I don’t let myself get down about what people write or say. And I am very proud to be a “lobbyist’s wife” because he has been hugely supportive of what I am doing (even if he doesn’t understand all the issues or why I’m doing it for free!) Strong, admonishing tones are fine with me, I can take what I give out. But seeming to belittle someone’s work because of who they’re married to doesn’t help the conversation.

          • WeGotta

            “But seeming to belittle someone’s work because of who they’re married to doesn’t help the conversation”
            Very true. I’ll try and do better. My sincere apologies.

            Like I said, you seem very strong so I let loose on you more than another perhaps.

          • But seeming to belittle someone’s work because of who they’re married to doesn’t help the conversation.

            Then apparently you’re not familiar with Erin Elizabeth ;)

          • Julie Kelly

            Who’s that?

          • Proceed at your own peril.

            healthnutnews.com
            rawfoodsretreat.com/director.php

          • Julie Kelly

            Oy….

          • Don’t say I didn’t warn you ;)

      • agscienceliterate

        Keep up the great work, Julie, and don’t let this ridiculous anti-corporate rant faze you one bit. You have made the essential points: Sugar is sugar, and if we really want to put our chocolate money where our salivating chocolate-hungry mouths are, we will buy chocolate that is local and sustainable, and that supports our local GE sugar beet farmers. All the other rants that ignore the plight of cane workers, the costs, the unsure quality of the sugar we get from importations, and mealy-mouthed blather are just utter nonsense. Hershey’s caters to these blithering idiots, and I have chosen to eat chocolate that caters to local sustainable farming and that doesn’t insult me with false advertising (sugar is molecularly the same) that panders to knee-jerk activists.

        • Julie Kelly

          Thank you so much!

          • J. Randall Stewart

            Thank you for writing about GMO crops.

      • WeGotta

        I also think you’re really beautiful!
        You should smile more if you do another interview.

        • Jackson

          If you are not intending to come across as a patronizingly sexist prat, you should rethink your comments.

          Your comments come across as:
          “Oh look at the really cute lobbyist’s wife, trying to be all thinky with writing an article, almost like a real person!”

          • gmoeater

            I am ready to go dope slap him myself. What an abundance of arrogance, tied up with a ribbon of patronizing sexism and scientific ignorance. Not “beautiful.” Incredibly ugly. Whether smiling or not. Ugh. Ick.

          • WeGotta

            If you treat me different as a man who calls a woman beautiful than you would a woman who calls a woman beautiful, you are the one making value decisions based on gender.

            Get it?

          • WeGotta

            I don’t have any bias one way or another. I don’t censor myself based upon what I think another person will think about what I say.

            You’re making conclusions about my opinion of women based upon a small subset of information.

            So to set the record straight:
            Men and women are different in some ways and the same in some ways.
            Different men are different in some ways and the same in some ways.
            Different women are different in some ways and the same in some ways.

            Some women can do some stuff and others can’t, same as men.
            Some men can do some stuff and others can’t, same as women.

            That’s the most I can say about it.

            I’m sure she was chosen to go on TV, at least in part, for her looks. So save your condemnation.

          • Jason

            “Oh look at the really cute lobbyist’s wife, trying to be all thinky with writing an article, almost like a real person!”

            I chuckled out loud at that! Bravo.

          • WeGotta

            BTW, how do you know I’m not female?
            Or transgender?

            Is it “okay” for a female to call another beautiful but not for a male? Does it mean something different?
            What if I’m a lesbian? Does it mean something different then?

            Better to just not have an emotional reaction to a situation like that and take it at face value.
            It’s a compliment, that’s all.

          • Jason

            I don’t know. I just thought his response was funny. Simple as that.

          • WeGotta

            I like simple!

      • gmoeater

        Julie, you are well-respected in the scientific world for the articles and blogs you write. The reference to you by this slimy troll as an “X wife,” regardless of what your husband does, is typically clueless, misogynist, sexist, and piggish straight down the line. Ugh. And no, you do not have to smile during any interviews, anymore than a man should have to drop his pants during an interview. Ignorant pig.
        Thanks for this great article.

        • Julie Kelly

          Thank you so much! It’s not the first time someone has pointed out what my husband does for a living and – while it’s an attempt to discredit me because he’s a “lobbyist” – it seems to usually backfire as it did here.
          Others told me to smile more, too, but it’s hard when I’m talking about something that I take very seriously.
          Thanks for your support, much appreciated!

          • Why should you smile during these interviews? Are you reviewing a new restaurant that you loved, or discussing the scientific illiteracy of the general public? Why would anyone want to see a fake or insincere smile?

          • WeGotta

            Humans have sophisticated facial recognition and they will see through insincerity.

            In my opinion, you should smile because you feel like smiling. If you are sane you feel mostly joy and peace so a smile grows naturally on your face. A smile that draws people in.

            But if you are trying to convince people to believe as you do, I think it’s been proven that smiling is very effective.

          • If she’s not smiling, perhaps it’s because she doesn’t feel like smiling. So why should she fake it and be perceived as insincere?

            Your comment makes no sense in conjunction with your suggestion that she smile more.

          • WeGotta

            She can smile or not smile. Makes no difference to me.

            But if she is there to convince people, it would be wise to do things more likely to convince people.
            My suggestion to her about smiling was just advice about an interview. I’m sure she was told the same thing by others.

          • Hopefully people are convinced more by the content of her words than by her smile.

          • WeGotta

            I can’t argue with that.
            But, whether they are or are not matters little to me since that’s just my personal judgement about a situation that just is.

            It is just a fact that some people are more convinced by looks and a smile than by the information being conveyed.

            I may wish people were not like that but this would just cause me to feel negatively. There’s no need to feel any way about it.

          • Fair enough.

          • Julie Kelly

            Honestly, it’s hard to smile because you are in a room alone with a dark camera and blank monitor plus struggling to hear the questions in the earpiece. You don’t know the questions in advance so I was very focused on getting my answer right. There’s also a downside to smiling too much when discussing these issues because people may not take you seriously.

          • WeGotta

            I don’t think they give people a decent chance to get their message across on those types of programs.

            Everyone looks sort of like a robot.

          • There’s also a downside to smiling too much when discussing these issues because people may not take you seriously.”
            Exactly.

          • agscienceliterate

            Are men ever asked to smile during interviews? That is an incredibly boorish expectation.

    • Roy Williams

      Everyone else’s bad choices affect my bank account, and the bank account of every tax-paying and insurance-paying person in the U.S. You get sick, we all pay. It is extremely self-centered, narcissistic attitude to think you can do whatever you want, regardless of consequences. We have laws about drugs, seatbelts, guns, and other things to reduce the number of people who think as you do. You do have to have an order from a licensed M.D. to procure possibly lifesaving medicines.
      You are not free to purchase raw milk in many places (should be all). You are not free to purchase food known to be contaminated by pathogens, nor would any reasonable person wish to do so, but guess what: you are dependent on government and toxicology experts to decide what food is safe and what is not. You cannot make that decision. It is not legal to operate a car that is not safety inspected, no matter how much you claim that the inspection is stupid or that your vehicle is safe. You cannot decide to operate a radio station, just because you want to. There are just so many ways that we are restricted in our everyday life, mostly because there is a consensus that individual liberty must be restricted for the benefit of the larger population.
      This larger campaign to force farmers to not use genetically modified crops is not about individual choice. That is a cover-up. The only reason that campaign has legs is that it is being financed by corporations that want to make a lot of money by perpetuating the fiction that organically produced crops are “better”. I don’t want non-scientists making decisions that affect our food supply; given that molecular biologists agree that genetically engineered food is safe, and farmers agree that those crops are generally more efficient and economical. I want genetically engineered crops grown in preference to widespread adoption of less efficient “organic” crops, because I don’t want still more undeveloped land being converted to crop land, here or elsewhere in the world. The anti-GMO rhetoric may very well cost us the Florida orange industry, which would be a terrible and stupid loss, given that a GMO orange could eliminate the loses. Something like 20% to %30 of the world’s wheat and potato crop is lost every year to disease that could be prevented next year by the adoption of available genetically engineered potatoes and wheat.
      It is the anti-GMO campaign that is the biggest danger to world food security – in the long run, a bigger danger than food-borne pathogens or water shortages.
      If you want to grow your own food, that is fine. Just do not try to push your self-centered ideology off on the rest of us who would prefer that our food supply be dictated by scientifically verifiable data.

      • WeGotta

        Of course people’s actions affect you and me.
        We are all one. We all share this fragile planet with each other and all life.
        It’s not only actions that affect us. People’s thoughts affect us too. People’s moods are more contagious than the flu.

        A “smart” and “scientifically oriented” society would look completely different than ours in so many ways.

        So yes, lets all make decisions based on science. I’d just rather we start with the most important things first in a general way so that we are all sure we are on the same page.

        For instance, what is “smarter”?
        Food policy based upon some people’s profits or people’s health?

      • WeGotta

        I’m not pushing anything except love and kindness.

  • Diana Pena

    I hate these activist wackos. Companies need to stand up for facts. I would love it if scientifically-literate people would boycott anti-science companies.

    • WeGotta

      Yes. There’s a looooong list of them.
      Let’s start with the major banks.

      • Diana Pena

        I was thinking more of a boycott on anything “Organic-Certified”

        • WeGotta

          Less bang for the buck, but go for it.

          • Diana Pena

            Organic has less bang for your buck. No nutritional benefit, and a lot more expensive.

          • WeGotta

            Maybe, maybe not. That’s a broad statement to cover such a complicated subject.

            I try and grow as much food as I can. Talk about bang for your buck and nutrition!

          • Diana Pena

            No maybe’s. Just no nutritional benefit. Period. Your health will not be aided by organic. Just the industry’s revenues.

          • WeGotta

            I believe that healthy soil leads to healthy plants which leads to healthy animals (humans).

            My vegetable beds have earthworms the size of snakes!

          • How did you connect your soil health to that of a non-organic certified farm’s soil??

          • WeGotta

            I don’t hold fixed beliefs about things that are constantly changing such as “only organic farms are good”.

          • Diana Pena

            Funny, because organic uses more harmful pesticides and also tilling, which degrades soil.

          • WeGotta

            All organic?
            All practices that could be organic but without the designation?
            More harmful pesticides than all non-organic?

            I’m not so interested in what people call things as much as what it actually is.
            Me and those I get other food from use no tilling and no pesticide at all.

          • Diana Pena

            I highly doubt that. Nonetheless, you are being conned. The pesticide doses you’d be exposed to are negligible.

          • WeGotta

            Like I said, I’m not exposed to any on the food I grow nor on the food that my farmers grow.

            Doubt it if you want. It’s an enjoyable pastime that gives me free food. I love it.
            Now is the time for starting seeds. I have lots of new babies!

          • What a strange line of reasoning from your previous comments. I’m done. Cheers.

          • Eric Bjerregaard

            Reasoning??? I saw no reasoning.

          • Martin Greenleaf

            So do my conventionally grown No Til GMO corn fields.

          • WeGotta

            I have a 2 step process before I can eat my food.
            1. Harvest.
            2. Rinse.
            No oil, trucks, trains or roads needed. No packaging. No labeling. No lobbying. No worrying about global prices.

            Taking corn and turning into HFCS to be combined with other chemicals into food-like junk pretty much nullifies any health benefits.

          • Martin Greenleaf

            Only replying to the fact that you are not the only one with big earthworms as you volunteered. The rest is meaningless. But if I so desired I could walk out, grab an ear, not even rinse. Eat, repeat.

          • WeGotta

            Cool.
            I’m happy for you and for our worms.

            I guess I don’t rinse my bananas, pineapple, coconuts or melons technically.
            My limes and lemons I do rinse ’cause they end up in drinks sometimes!

          • hyperzombie

            My vegetable beds have earthworms the size of snakes!”
            Hmmm, maybe use less “organic” uranium 235, and your earthworms will return to regular size.

          • gmoeater

            Right-o. Moderate amounts of sweets might be ok unless one has sugar or insulin-related issues, but the body doesn’t give a hoot if that sugar is “organic” or not. Your wallet does, but if one is an overprivileged over-fed economically secure pedant, even that doesn’t matter.

          • gmoeater

            Absolutely. And more negative impact on the environment, in terms of tillage and runoff, water quality, air quality, and less yield per acre.

    • gmoeater

      I’m just one person, Diana, but I do that when I can. Avoid organic and non-GMO whenever possible. And I compliment the Girl Scouts for selling cookies and not caving in to the screeching activists about sugar from GE sugar beets. (regular sugar of course, but try to reason with a loud, belligerent, ignorant activist)

    • WeGotta

      You shouldn’t let “them” cause you to feel something like hate.
      Life’s too short and hate is a poison that destroys your happiness rather than the object you hate.

  • Stuart M.

    The Food Nazis strike again. Let’s see, I can’t eat at Chipotles, I can’t eat Campbell’s Soup, I can’t eat Hershey’s, I Can’t eat Post Grape Nuts…

  • Stuart M.

    Dear Sir or Madam:

    I am very unhappy with the Hershey Company’s decision to no longer use sugar from GMO sugar beets in its products. As you rightly pointed out in your statement, the scientific consensus holds that there is absolutely no health hazard to eating GMOs and you cited many respected scientific organizations. And yet, you decided to cave in to a small hysterical unscientific minority anyway. WHY? Do you really think those “consumer advocates” are representative of your customers? I doubt it. I suspect they will now be emboldened to demand all sugary products be removed from our groceries. In the meantime, you will now get your sugar from sugar cane farms in Brazil where poor workers must slave in terrible conditions at very meager wages, and you will throw American farmers and the entire American biotechnology industry under the bus. What was all that about American innovation and competitiveness? Instead of rewarding it and benefiting from it, the Hershey Company is going to punish it. Which unscientific pressure group will you give in to next? White supremacists who don’t want any ingredients from Jewish or Black farmers? I cannot express my disappointment enough. I strongly urge you to reconsider. Until then, all Hershey’s products (like my favorite Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) are definitely off my shopping list.

  • WeGotta

    Dear Sir or Madam:

    I am very ambivalent with the Hershey Company’s decision to no longer use sugar from GMO sugar beets in its products. As you rightly pointed out, the scientific consensus holds that there is absolutely no health hazard to eating GMO sugar (unless of course if you eat more than a little and then the consensus is that this is bad for your health). You decided to listen to those consumers who chose to communicate with you about their preferences. You correctly assumed that those who bothered to reach out to you were representative of your costumers since they probably said as much. I suspect they will now be emboldened to ask other producers of things to produce things they would like to buy. In the meantime, you will now get your sugar from sugar cane farms in Brazil where relatively poor workers do their work outside (similar to how we get most other stuff in the US from the labor of poor workers in other countries, albeit sometimes indoors, but still “slaving away” for meager pay like many Americans must do these days). You will force some American farmers and some of the American biotechnology industry into full on PR spin mode and cause them to have to make changes in response to changing demands (like pretty much happens to all workers and industries). What was all that about American innovation and competitiveness? Instead of innovating and trying to be competitive, you should be seeking ways to reward other industries who are not interested in changing. Which unscientific pressure group will you give in to next? Schoolchildren who want a new Hershey’s kiss flavor? I cannot express my well-being enough. I strongly urge you to do what you think is right for your own company. Until then, I will either buy your stuff or not depending on whether I want to or not.
    Either way, I feel confident that you will consider my needs and wants as a costumer.

  • Arthur Doucette

    Domino Foods, Inc. is part of ASR Group, the world’s largest refiner of cane sugar. Easy for them to put “GMO free” on their containers since there isn’t any GMO cane.

  • crush

    I am originally from the southern PA area where Milton S. Hershey established his company. While I am disappointed that they felt the need to go through these contortions to satisfy the activist community, I won’t avoid the products. Rather, I will refer to this when emphasizing how ridiculous and mendacious the anti-transgenic activists are. That is, GMO sucrose–my favorite activist lie.