The US Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded recently that raw and refined sugar produced from Brazil’s first genetically-modified sugarcane variety, called CTC20BT, is safe. The US FDA focused its safety assessment on sugar because sugar is the main sugarcane-derived product imported to the US from Brazil. In addition to sugar refining, the Brazilian sugarcane sector uses sugarcane by-products domestically to produce ethanol fuel for vehicles and to burn to generate electricity.
The insect-protected sugarcane was developed by Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC), a company focused on improving sugarcane varieties and technologies in Brazil. CTC submitted information and studies to the US FDA that indicated that sugar produced from the insect-protected sugarcane was as safe as sugar produced from conventional sugarcane. The data also showed that the highly refined sugar was compositionally identical to sugar produced from conventional varieties.
The recent US FDA approval followed a similar approval for sugar from Health Canada earlier this year.
The sugarcane was first approved for cultivation in Brazil by CTNBio – Brazil’s National Biosafety Technical Committee, in June 2017, following a detailed review process.
The new variety developed by CTC produces the Cry1Ab Bt protein which establishes resistance to the sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis), a major destructive pest in Brazil that causes damage and loss estimated at US$1 billion a year. The Bt protein found in CTC20BT, says CTC, has a long history of safe use and has been widely used in global agriculture for more than 20 years in biotechnology-derived crops such as maize and cotton, among others.