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