Table of Contents

Handbook on Agriculture, Biotechnology and Development

Handbook on Agriculture, Biotechnology and Development

Elgar original reference

Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle

This book is a compendium of knowledge, experience and insight on agriculture, biotechnology and development. Beginning with an account of GM crop adoptions and attitudes towards them, the book assesses numerous crucial processes, concluding with detailed insights into GM products. Drawing on expert perspectives of leading authors from 57 different institutions in 16 countries, it provides a unique, global overview of agbiotech following 20 years of adoption. Many consider GM crops the most rapid agricultural innovation adopted in the history of agriculture. This book provides insights as to why the adoption has occurred globally at such a rapid rate.

Chapter 41: Sugar beet

Koen Dillen and Matty Demont

Subjects: development studies, agricultural economics, development studies, economics and finance, agricultural economics, environment, agricultural economics, biotechnology, environmental sociology, innovation and technology, biotechnology


Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) is a specialized agricultural crop aimed solely at the refined sugar industry. Its root contains a high percentage of sucrose, the basic input for sugar processing. As such, sugar beet directly competes on a global scale with sugar cane, a crop with similar sucrose content. Sugar cane, a C-4 plant, outperforms sugar beet in the warm and dry climates, leading to spatial separation of cultivation. Sugar beet is mainly cultivated in the more temperate and colder climates around the world such as Europe and parts of North America where it is an important agricultural crop. Table 41.1 demonstrates the importance and spatial distribution of sucrose-containing crops worldwide. The specific properties of sugar beet and its importance in industrialized countries with strong institutions and commercially oriented farmers makes it an interesting crop to be targeted by the biotechnology sector. As early as 1998, approval was granted for both food and feed use and environmental release in the US for genetically modified herbicide tolerant (GMHT) sugar beet (CERA, 2010). In this chapter we will first highlight the particular characteristics of sugar beet which make it suitable for genetic modification and try to explain why the first commercial application of GM sugar beet only took place in 2007, a decade after it was first officially granted permission. Next, we expand on the farmer experiences with cultivation.

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