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Does Sugar and Sweeteners Cause Environmental Problems?

Environmental problems by sugar production and artificial sweeteners

Sugar production and the use of artificial sweeteners are both integral parts of our food system, but they also have significant environmental impacts. Sugar is not only produced for food, but also used for ethanol production. As an alternative fuel replacing gasoline.

Sugar production, primarily through the cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet, can lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and water pollution. The heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers in sugarcane and sugar beet cultivation can lead to water pollution and the destruction of aquatic habitats (Solomon et al, 2000).

Artificial sweeteners, except for sucralose, while they may have less significant environmental impacts than sugar production, still contribute to pollution and the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the environment (Greenpeace, 2019).

In this article, we will explore the environmental problems caused by sugar production and the use of artificial sweeteners more in detail.

Sugar production is a significant contributor to environmental degradation. The cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet can lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and water pollution.

These impacts can have serious consequences for both the environment and human communities (Koh and Wilcove, 2008). One of the major environmental impacts of sugar production is deforestation.

The clearing of forests for sugarcane plantations can lead to the destruction of habitats for many species, including those that are already endangered (Gebert and Lizabeth,2011). This destruction of habitats can also contribute to global warming by releasing carbon stored in trees.

Additionally, the loss of forests can lead to the displacement of indigenous communities and the loss of traditional livelihoods (Koh and Wilcove, 2008). Another major environmental impact of sugar production is the destruction of aquatic habitats. The heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers in sugarcane and sugar beet cultivation can lead to water pollution, which can have devastating effects on aquatic life (Solomon et al, 2000).

This pollution can also contaminate drinking water sources and negatively impact human health. Additionally, the use of water for irrigation in sugarcane production can lead to water scarcity in local communities (Cherubin et al., 2017). The destruction of biodiversity and the displacement of local communities are not the only environmental impacts of sugar production. Sugar production also requires a large amount of energy, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions (Tzilivakis et al.,2005). Additionally, the large-scale monoculture cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet can lead to a loss of soil fertility over time (Cherubin et al., 2017).

Artificial sweeteners also have environmental impacts, although they, except for sucralose, may be less significant than those of sugar production.

For example, the production of aspartame, a commonly used artificial sweetener, requires the use of genetically modified bacteria. This can lead to the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the environment, which can have negative impacts on biodiversity (Greenpeace, 2019).

Additionally, the disposal of artificial sweeteners can lead to pollution of water and soil, as some of them are not biodegradable and can persist in the environment (Sang et al.,2014). Artificial sweeteners are not biodegradable and can persist in the environment, which can lead to the pollution of water and soil (Sang et al.,2014).

Additionally, the disposal of artificial sweeteners can contribute to litter and plastic pollution. Moreover, the production of artificial sweeteners also requires high energy inputs and chemical synthesis which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution of air and water resources (Durrett et al.,2008).

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, are often used as substitutes for sugar in processed foods and beverages. However, the production of these sweeteners can have negative environmental impacts, such as the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the environment (Greenpeace, 2019), and their disposal can lead to pollution of water and soil as they are not biodegradable and can persist in the environment (Sang et al.,2014).

Natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar, can also have environmental impacts, depending on how they are produced. For example, the cultivation of honeybees for honey production can lead to the destruction of wild habitats and can contribute to the decline of wild pollinators (Klein et al, 2007).

Similarly, the production of maple syrup can lead to the destruction of forests and the displacement of wildlife (Clark and Kristin, 2011). On the other hand, if these sweeteners are produced sustainably, they can have less impact on the environment.

Stevia, a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant, is considered to be one of the eco-friendliest sweeteners. Stevia is a perennial plant that can be grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers and it also requires less water to grow as compared to other sweeteners (Panpatil et al., 2008).

Conclusion

In conclusion, sugar production and the use of artificial sweeteners both have significant environmental impacts. Sugar production, primarily through the cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet, can lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, water pollution, displacement of local communities, and loss of soil fertility.

The heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers in sugarcane and sugar beet cultivation can lead to water pollution and the destruction of aquatic habitats.

Artificial sweeteners, while they may have less significant environmental impacts than sugar production, still contribute to pollution and the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the environment.

To mitigate these impacts, it is important to promote more sustainable practices in sugar production and consumption of sweeteners.

References

Koh, L. P., & Wilcove, D. S. (2008). Is oil palm agriculture really destroying tropical biodiversity? Conservation Letters, 1(3), 60-64.

Solomon, K., Giesy, J., & Jones, P. (2000). Probabilistic risk assessment of agrochemicals in the environment. Crop Protection, 19(8-10), 649–655..

GreenPeace. (2019). GMOs & Toxic Pesticides. Retrieved from Greenpeace USA website:.

Sang, Z., Jiang, Y., Tsoi, Y.-K., & Leung, K. S.-Y. (2014). Evaluating the environmental impact of artificial sweeteners: a study of their distributions, photodegradation and toxicities. Water Research, 52, 260–274..

Klein, A. M., Vaissière, B. E., Cane, J. H., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Cunningham, S. A., Kremen, C., & Tscharntke, T. (2007). Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274(1608), 303-313..

Clark, K. (2011). Maple Sugar Bush Management and Biodiversity Conservation in Eastern Ontario, Canada. University of Ottawa (Canada).

Panpatil, V. V., & Polasa, K. (2008). Assessment of stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)–Natural sweetener: A review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 45(6), 467

Cherubin, M. R., Franco, A. L. C., Guimarães, R. M. L., Tormena, C. A., Cerri, C. E. P., Karlen, D. L., & Cerri, C. C. (2017). Assessing soil structural quality under Brazilian sugarcane expansion areas using Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS). Soil and Tillage Research, 173, 64–74.

Paravisini-Gebert, L. (2011). Deforestation and the yearning for lost landscapes in Caribbean literatures. Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, 99-116.

Tzilivakis, J., Warner, D. J., May, M., Lewis, K. A., & Jaggard, K. (2005). An assessment of the energy inputs and greenhouse gas emissions in sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) production in the UK. Agricultural Systems, 85(2), 101-119..

Durrett, T. P., Benning, C., & Ohlrogge, J. (2008). Plant triacylglycerols as feedstocks for the production of biofuels. The Plant Journal, 54(4), 593-607.

 

 

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