Sweet ‘n’ Low-Down
Sugar is causing environmental catastrophes
A high-sugar diet is slowly fattening and sickening American people, but we’re getting off easy. Turns out the sweet stuff is outright killing endangered Florida panthers, not to mention the ecosystem in which they live. Almost 700,000 acres of the Florida Everglades have been drained to create the Everglades Agricultural Area, about 80 percent of which is used by the state’s powerful sugar industry to grow cane. Phosphorus and nitrates from fertilizers drain from farms into the Everglades, causing grasses to grow rapidly and choke out wading birds, keeping them from feeding while also altering water chemistry so that algae — the base of the food chain — can no longer support species that feed on it. The Great Barrier Reef suffers similar effects from Australia’s sugar industry. Fertilizer causes massive growths of plankton which support an increase in species that compete with coral for space on the ocean floor. Add in the up to 150 tons per acre of topsoil that can wash from the cane fields into waterways, and sugar looks like the main ingredient in a recipe for disaster.