A judge's order is going to leave a sour taste in consumers' mouths if allowed to stand: Half of the U.S. sugar supply is at risk because of it and prices will undoubtedly soar.
At issue is the approval by federal regulators for Monsanto
You can't sugar-coat this
The U.S. produces 7 million metric tons of sugar annually, with beets supplying a little more than half of the nation's sugar supply (the rest comes from sugar cane). The U.S. sugar beet crop was worth $1.3 billion in 2008. With GM beets accounting for around 95% of all sugar beets, and without sufficient numbers of conventional seeds available, once the current crop is harvested next spring, there will likely be a huge disruption in the supply chain. Expect prices of sugar and sugar-containing substances to soar, if the ruling stands and no interim measures can be provided.
It's estimated that the judge's ruling will cause at least 14 of the 21 sugar beet plants in the U.S. to close, costing 5,800 full-time and seasonal jobs. There would also be $283.6 million in lost gross profits for beet growers, with the total economic impact to rural communities coming in at nearly $1.5 billion dollars.
We've got a sweet tooth
According to the USDA, Americans consume more than 9.5 million metric tons of sugar per year. Even if cereal makers like Kellogg and General Mills
And look for consumer goods made by Kraft
The U.S. already has import restrictions on cane sugar in place, which makes U.S. sugar more expensive than it otherwise would be. Sugar that comes in over quota is subject to a tariff of $15.36 per hundredweight, making it generally uneconomical to import. But earlier this year domestic prices soared so high that it was almost cheaper to buy imported sugar, even with the tariff in place. If sugar prices jump again because half of the U.S. sugar output is missing, it might become advantageous to buy sugar on the world markets again, meaning that even Imperial Sugar
Sugar pie, honey buns
Naturally, candy makers Hershey
It's not certain the ruling will stand, though. In 2007, a different judge ruled against Monsanto's GM alfalfa seeds and the biotech had to take the case all the way up to the Supreme Court to get it overturned. Of course, that kind of process takes years, as does conducting an environmental impact statement, meaning it won't be a sweet deal for consumers stuck in the checkout line.
Coca-Cola and Monsanto are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Kellogg and Coca-Cola are Income Investor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position on Monsanto. The Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.