“Natural” Sodas Made with GMO Sugar Scam Consumers

by Sarah Activism, Healthy Living, Healthy Pregnancy, Baby & ChildComments: 74

Sierra Mist NaturalMy level of distrust, disgust and loathing of Big Food has reached a new high.

The reason?

While doing some research for a completely unrelated article, I discovered the little known fact that food manufacturers are not required to specify on a food label whether the “sugar” or “sucrose” in their products is derived from cane sugar or beet sugar.

Why is this a big deal?  There’s nothing wrong with beet sugar, right?

pepsi naturalWrong.

Since its introduction to the market in 2008, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO sugar beets have completely taken over the market. At least 95% of the sugar beets grown in the United States are now genetically modified and the FDA encouraged this trend to continue with complete deregulation of GMO sugar beets in July 2012.

Here’s the critical point:  approximately 50 percent of white sugar sold in the US is made from GMO sugar beets and consumers don’t even know it – most erroneously assume it is nonGMO cane sugar. Again, there is no requirement to distinguish on a food label whether “sugar” or “sucrose” is derived from beet sugar, cane sugar, or a mix of the two.

GMO sugar scamThe bottom line is that any product you buy that says “sugar” or “sucrose” is almost certainly at least partially if not completely GMO beet sugar unless it is certified organic or labeled as 100% cane sugar.

What does this mean for those so called “throwback” sodas that use “old fashioned”, “real sugar” instead of high fructose corn syrup?

Nothing more than a marketing ploy. Throwback or “natural” sodas are not the healthier, old fashioned choice that food manufacturers would have you believe.

PepsiCo, manufacturer of Naked Juice and Sierra Mist has already been sued once for abusing the “natural” label.  The company recently settled a lawsuit for $9 million that alleged that some of the ingredients in Naked Juice, a brand of fruit and veggie drinks, aren’t “natural” at all, with the vitamins synthetic, an artificial fiber manufactured by Archer Daniels Midland, and GMOs.

PepsiCo confirmed to me in a telephone conversation that the sugar in its “natural” sodas are in fact made with a mixture of cane sugar and GMO beet sugar.

In essence, if you are trying to avoid GMO high fructose corn syrup at the supermarket, your choice of products containing “sugar” are without a doubt GMO as well no matter what the item may be – candy, breakfast cereal or even “healthy” granola bars.

Buying bags of white sugar for making homemade kombucha? Better switch to organic sugar or nonorganic sugar specifically labeled as 100% cane sugar or you’ve been brewing a GMO drink for your family.

Use a pack of white sugar in your morning tea or coffee at Starbucks? Yes, that’s almost certainly at least partially GMO too.

Be careful when seeking out natural sodas like Blue Sky Sodas from Hansen’s at the healthfood store as this can be especially confusing.  For example, the sugar used in the Blue Sky Organic soda line is pure cane sugar. In addition, four of the nonorganic sodas are listed on the Hansen’s Natural website as containing pure cane sugar as well.

Blue Sky NaturalHowever, for the majority of the Blue Sky sodas, the label does not say organic or pure cane sugar.  It simply says “real sugar” which when I inquired, does indeed mean at least part of the sweetener is GMO beet sugar derived.  Here is the exact wording of the email response to my telephone inquiry to customer service:

Thanks for taking the time to contact our company directly with your inquiry. 

The sugar in Blue Sky Sodas is either sourced from cane and or beet and is refined as normal table top sugar is. Real refers to the fact it is not a chemically derived sweetener like High Fructose Corn Syrup, Glucose Syrup, etc. 

Sugar from GMO beets is not considered chemically derived?  Not sure how that conclusion could be made given that GMOs are created in a lab and are clearly not natural. Buyer beware indeed!

Why Products Containing GMO Beet Sugar are So Unhealthy

Besides the completely unknown effects of consuming GMOs which have never been adequately tested, the activist organization Citizens for Health reports that GMO sugar beets in the food supply are of particular concern because the sugar is extracted from the beet’s root rather than the part of the plant growing above the ground with the result being more glyphosate pesticide residues in the sugar.

Another problem is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to increase the allowable levels of glyphosate on sugar beet roots, seemingly ad infinitum as superweed resistance continues to grow.

Inexplicably, the EPA continues to allow ever higher levels of glyphosate on GMO crops despite the release of a study showing that glyphosate inhibits the growth of beneficial gut bacteria in humans and leads to the overgrowth of pathogenic intestinal bacteria resulting in a slow, insidious increase in systemic inflammation over months and years.

Sodas That Really ARE Natural

When I discovered this information, I made a point to inform my children that what they had been doing at parties and whatnot – seeking drinks with plain sugar instead of GMO high fructose corn syrup – was no longer a safe strategy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey must now choose water, 100% fruit juice, or sodas like Virgil’s (see picture above) that use only cane sugar and specify it as such on the label.  These are the only “natural” sodas you can trust to be truly GMO free.

What shopping habits will you change now that you are aware of the sugar labeling scam that is causing even health conscious people to be lured into consuming GMO beet sugar?  Will you discuss this with your children to help them avoid these foods and make wiser selections at parties and other events?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


USDA Announces Decision to Deregulate Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets

White Sugar Now Coming From Genetically-Modified Sugar Beets

Feds to farmers: Grow GMO beets or face sugar shortage


The Double Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup

Hansen’s Natural Sodas

Monsanto’s Minions: US EPA Hikes Glyphosate Limits in Food and Feed Once Again

Picture Credit

Comments (74)

  • Phillip

    Your email from BlueSky or at least your interpretation of it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. You report responded that some of the sugar that they use is very sugar. However, in the response that you showed in the article they did not explicitly state that the sugar was obtained from GMO beet sugar. Is it entirely inconceivable that the beets from which they obtain their sugar are actually GMO free? It seems to me that this is actually quite likely considering they claim GMO free on the label. Anything else would be begging for a lawsuit.

    July 16th, 2016 2:16 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      There was no “GMO free” on the label at the time this article was written. Perhaps they have made this improvement as a result of public outcry about the situation.

      July 16th, 2016 6:37 pm Reply
  • Marlene

    Not sure if you are aware that most natural flavors & around 90% of citric acid is gmo corn. Have you asked Virgil’s what there sources are of these ingredients? If not, likely gmo.

    January 27th, 2016 1:05 pm Reply
  • Tina

    Thanks for the info. Did you know that even the hummingbirds KNOW!?
    Without being aware of the difference, my husband and I purchased Crystal Sugar on a shopping trip instead of the usual C&H. We couldn’t figure out why the hummers were avoiding the feeder – they have been crazy about it for the past 7 years – until I looked up if Crystal Sugar was GMO and found out it is not even from cane but beets, and GMO beets to boot!
    God blesses us in mysterious ways – we just need to listen to and observe His creation for what they naturally know!

    July 8th, 2015 10:57 am Reply
  • Mike

    On Hansens.com it states that Blue Sky Soda is made with Cane Sugar.
    Since 1980, Blue Sky has been churning out authentic yum. And our Grape Soda is chock full of it! Cane sugar and grape flavors create a perfectly sweet soda that is oh so “grapey” and delicious. As always, Blue Sky delivers the flavor without preservatives, artificial flavors, colors, or caffeine. Simply delectable!

    April 13th, 2015 9:56 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Yes, some of them are made with cane sugar, others are not.

      April 14th, 2015 7:17 am Reply
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  • Jem

    What about Blue Sky stevia soda?

    June 13th, 2014 8:32 pm Reply
  • Isidra

    Hello everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this web page, and
    piece of writing is truly fruitful for me, keep up posting such content.

    April 5th, 2014 2:44 am Reply
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  • Mary English

    I have BUYCOTT on my cell phone. Buycott tells you if item barcode you scanned is owned by GMO producers or a George Soros co. or if it has no issues. I now drink Adirondack or Polar Seltzer. Being diabetic and not being able to drink ‘diet’ anything as I’m sensitive to aspartame etc. I’m now enjoying seltzers.

    August 25th, 2013 6:20 am Reply
    • patti stanley

      Thank you for this information…

      September 16th, 2013 12:37 pm Reply
  • Trixie

    investigate this next

    August 17th, 2013 2:21 am Reply
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  • Cherish

    I’ve been spending almost 200 bucks a week for a family of three to eat all organic and non-gmo. Hopefully this will be the icing on the cake for my husband to kick his soda addiction. Thank you for sharing!!!

    August 16th, 2013 10:03 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Money spent on good food is never money wasted. It is money saved many times over at the doctor’s office!

      August 17th, 2013 8:23 am Reply
    • meghan androsuk

      You are doing right my friend. I healed my colitis from changing to non g.m.o. Go to your local middle eastern grocery store. You go and buy Molokhia it is an Egyptian leaf. You make it with kroger organic chicken and broth with non g.m.o oil. Serve with basmati rice. I’m sure you can find the recipe online a great cheap meal for the whole family easy as well. Please keep up the fight friend nice to know people are on the same boat. Also Annies has an all g.m.o white cheddar mac n cheese goes great with some organic ketchup and organic beef.

      July 2nd, 2014 5:42 am Reply
  • Health & Organic Wellbeing ( H.O.W )

    Thank you for sharing this vital information!

    August 16th, 2013 2:51 am Reply
  • Sarah Ferguson

    Wow, this really makes me angry – but, why should it? I should’ve guessed that this is what they were doing. This is big business and it’s ALL about a dollar. Why the heck would the government or any corp for that matter care about our health. You know what? I bet they don’t drink it.

    August 15th, 2013 10:01 am Reply
  • Kathleen

    oops, should have said SOME Family Dollar stores.

    August 14th, 2013 4:37 pm Reply
  • Kathleen

    I get “Non GMO Project Verified” Zulka brand, Morena Pure Cane sugar from lots of stores including Winco, the 99cent stores, and at Family Dollar stores.

    August 14th, 2013 4:35 pm Reply
  • Ashley Brown

    Hi Sarah, Its been a great read. I myself don’t prefer soda, because It causes many health hazards like diabetes,tooth decay.

    August 14th, 2013 4:18 am Reply
  • Michelle J. H

    Any chance we could get a list of sugars that don’t contain GMO beet-sugar? I went to my local co-op today was so confused! I ended up with Florida Crystals Pure Cane Sugar and Rapunzel Organic Whole Cane Sugar.

    So many listed Evaporated cane juice, is that safe?

    August 14th, 2013 1:02 am Reply
    • Ken Owen

      I found an article about them testing GMO sugarcane from Oct. 2013. Anyone know if this garbage has made it to stores yet?

      May 1st, 2015 4:32 am Reply
  • Iryna B.

    Thank you for confirming my concern! I thought too – to make more money producers for sure would use the cheaper of two, the GMO sugar.

    August 13th, 2013 9:55 pm Reply
  • Ellen

    I”m not being critical – just curious – are your videos making kombucha with sugar probably GMO sugar and you didn’t know?

    August 13th, 2013 5:45 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      The proliferation of GMO sugar in the food supply occurred after these videos were made which was nearly 3 1/2 years ago. I’ve been using organic sugar for quite some time anyway.

      August 13th, 2013 5:56 pm Reply
  • Jennie Boone

    I have been purchasing the 10 lb bag of granulated sugar from Gordon Food Service to make my kombucha (which uses 7 cups every other week, based on your video for making large batches – thank you!). I emailed them and asked if it was beet or cane sugar. I was so surprised with their excellent customer service – they emailed back within 1/2 an hour and asked for the reorder number on the bag. I replied, and early this afternoon they replied “it is beet sugar”. Grrrr. Now I will have to find a new source. Kudos to them for the excellent service, sorry it was the wrong answer. I asked them to reconsider their source of sugar, as customers are becoming much more informed regarding food safety!

    August 13th, 2013 3:52 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    I am extremely frustrated. I buy this Blue Sky “natural soda” on occasion. I have never purchased the “organic” Blue Sky option because each “natural soda” can has GMO FREE listed on it!!! So now what? Are they using non GMO beet sugar (how can they be sure??) or is the label lying?!!!! This certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve found out I can’t trust labels….but this one is difficult for me because it says “GMO FREE”!

    August 13th, 2013 3:37 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Best to stick to sodas that specify cane sugar. Given that 95% or even more of sugar beets are GMO in the United States, I wouldn’t trust any product that has beet sugar in it unless it is organic. I would say also that Hansen’s conveniently did not respond to my emails regarding whether the beet sugar in some of their nonorganic sodas was guaranteed nonGMO and if it was, how they could guarantee it if not certified organic.

      August 13th, 2013 5:59 pm Reply
      • Rebecca

        Fyi…I too have contacted blue sky twice via email. I have of yet to receive a response to my inquiry of if truly GMO free as label states. I called today and was told they answer email each day. I told them it will be one week that I’ve been waiting on a response. I was promised a return call today. Haven’t received one yet. …really it is an easy answer if it really is GMO free, as states on label. …definitely not a good sign.

        August 19th, 2013 6:03 pm Reply
  • Maureen Sepulveda

    This is exactly why I don’t drink soda nor do I buy it, water only for my family and me. Sarah, thank you for posting this. I will be sure to share with friends and family who I know still drink this stuff.

    August 13th, 2013 3:27 pm Reply
  • Betty Jones

    The Blue Sky brand says “GMO Free” right on the can. I am pretty sure they are not allowed to do that unless it’s true. Is it possible that some of their sugar is sourced from non-GMO sugar beets? The email response from them mentions nothing about GMOs. You should really do further research before posting negative things about a company.

    August 13th, 2013 2:10 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Which flavor … some of the flavors are definitely all cane sugar and nonGMO. Others are not. Very confusing!

      August 13th, 2013 5:20 pm Reply
      • Ashley L.

        It may also depend on what the laws/rules/regulations are as to where each flavor is produced. It’s kind of like buying a pair of pants at a store Made in USA, and then buying another pair of the same pants just a different size and they are Made in China.

        August 27th, 2013 11:10 pm Reply
  • katlupe

    Thank you for this article! We have stopped using sugar, wheat products or most processed foods. Most people say they are against GMO foods, yet I see them posting their sugar laden jams, jellies, preserves and fruits they canned this summer. If I mention anything against sugar, they roll their eyes and ignore what I said. They just keep feeding it to their children. I shared your article on my Facebook page. It is a good one!

    August 13th, 2013 1:39 pm Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Yes, all those homemade jams, jellies etc are loaded with GMO beet sugar unless organic sugar or nonorganic pure cane sugar is used.

      August 13th, 2013 2:38 pm Reply
      • Kim

        Well, hopefully most people are using C&H Cane Sugar when they are canning, that says pure cane sugar. So that should be GMO non-beet, right? I’m so curious about a store like Trader Joe’s, they state on their website that they don’t use GMO products, but it seems like that would be impossible when a good number of their products have sugar and corn products.

        August 13th, 2013 3:27 pm Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

          Yes, I think most people just don’t know about this loophole in labeling of sugar … we have a local healthfood store that really tries to be GMO free but I can tell you there are products in there with GMO beet sugar in them.

          August 13th, 2013 6:01 pm Reply
          • Nia Hann

            I too wondered about this, as my local Trader Joe’s had a package of flour tortillas labeled “organic”. When I read the ingredients list everything was organic except the cornstarch- almost certain to be GMO-since not organic. And my local health food store has Bob’s Red Mill corn product (not organic). I was unable to verify if Bob’s is GMO or not, so I left that corn flour on the shelf. I don’t appreciate any of these companies making things so difficult for us consumers. Really, How hard was it for Trader Joe’s supplier to use organic cornstarch in those tortillas?!

            September 16th, 2013 3:53 am
  • Bianca

    What about the “natural flavors” in Virgil’s Soda? I thought that as well was a mix of many different ingredients that no one really knows what it is made of??

    August 13th, 2013 12:15 pm Reply
    • Erica

      I did a little research today and I found this letter from Virgil’s in regard to their “natural flavors”:
      Natural Flavors “refers to essences and extracts coming from natural sources (fruits and plants). Sweeteners are never included in natural flavors, they must always be listed separately. We do not use corn-based ingredients in any of our Virgil’s sodas.”

      While it doesn’t mention beets, it does say their sweeteners are always listed separately.

      August 13th, 2013 6:03 pm Reply
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  • JP

    Checked a local soda company and yay! Cane sugar! http://www.zuberfizz.com if anyone would like to check them out!

    August 13th, 2013 12:03 pm Reply
  • Michelle

    Thanks for your research.

    But the big question is What is Mexican coke made of??

    August 13th, 2013 12:02 pm Reply
  • Sarah

    The Blue Sky soda says GMO free on the side of the can for the orange creme, wild raspberry, cola, and creme soda flavors. It matches the picture of the picture of the can above. Is that to not be believed?

    August 13th, 2013 11:55 am Reply
  • Laura

    We buy Zevia sodas sweetened with stevia

    August 13th, 2013 11:50 am Reply
    • Heidi

      yeah, we do too. But we only have sodas every once in a while. What about Zevia? Is it just as bad?

      August 13th, 2013 1:31 pm Reply
    • Frankie Lee*

      Stevia sweetener is genetically engineered modified organism, derived from monsantos own grown plants.

      May 25th, 2014 3:36 pm Reply
      • Bob Loblaw

        No, it isn’t, Captain Disinformation. Stevia is an herb and not yet genetically modified.

        There is, however “Truvia” brand sweetener which is a chemically modified(unnatural) form of the natural product. And also much of the stevia products are coming from other countries like Brazil where they may be mixing the extracts etc. with aspartame as the taste is a bit similar. But you can grow your own stevia and use it without fear of it being GMO.

        Alfalfa on the other hand….

        June 25th, 2014 1:36 am Reply
  • Beth

    Thanks for the article! I’ve been very careful about only using ‘cane sugar’ for years but sure have been hoodwinked with Blue Sky! I will double check that now (we rarely get soda but normally get Hansen’s or Blue Sky when we do). BTW, my children had Virgil’s cream soda the other day and said it tasted the best!

    August 13th, 2013 11:42 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Virgil’s rocks! I love companies that mean what they say on the label. Honesty in food labeling is a rare thing these days.

      August 13th, 2013 11:47 am Reply
  • Erica

    This makes me so mad! The only soda I would allow on occasion was Sierra Mist. I should have known better! GRRRR! Thank you for this informative article!

    August 13th, 2013 11:37 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Yes, I was WILD with disgust when I found this out as my teenager would only drink Sierra Mist at parties and Church functions. He knows better now. Cane sugar only sodas.

      August 13th, 2013 11:41 am Reply
      • JP

        I’m guessing this is true of the natural sugar katsup from Hunts… Infuriating to say the least… Looks like my move to organic just got another kick in the backside.

        August 13th, 2013 11:58 am Reply
  • Kim

    Thanks so much for explaining that in a very clear way. I am sad that I now have to explain yet another labeling discrepancy to my children. Beginning to think I should just send them to every social function with a small bag of their own goodies! How does everyone else handle this issue of social events and food for your children?

    August 13th, 2013 11:29 am Reply
    • Pat in TX

      Choose your friends carefully?

      Seriously, many of our friends have similar values/concerns, but we are homeschoolers with big families so we are all weird anyway:-) For church functions, I have them eat before they go so “treats” do not become meals. I allow them to take along a healthy snack and/or drink to share – nothing too weird so that others may like it too. I encourage them to make wise choices. And then I relax and let them be kids. My philosophy has always been that it is not what you do every once in a while (depending on your idea of every once in a while – and not referring to allergies), its what you do every day.

      I cannot tell you how many times I have been told be well-meaning people that teens will not eat veggie trays or some other healthy item I have sent along, only to have my children tell me it went very quickly!

      August 13th, 2013 9:12 pm Reply
  • Deborah

    Sarah, thank you so much for the excellent information you provide here. I appreciate so much all of your hard work and research that you so generously share!

    August 13th, 2013 11:11 am Reply
  • angie

    What about Mexican coke?

    August 13th, 2013 11:00 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      GMO unless the label specifies cane sugar.

      August 13th, 2013 11:14 am Reply
    • Y.G. , Nourishing Traditions in Odessa Texas

      I believe Mexican sodas started using GMO sugars a while back. I’ve also noticed that they don’t taste like they used to when they were using sugar cane sugar.

      August 13th, 2013 9:13 pm Reply
  • Amanda

    Sarah, Just wanted to say thanks for all your hard work in exposing and bringing these topics to us. I have learned so much from your posts.

    August 13th, 2013 10:58 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      You’re welcome.

      August 13th, 2013 11:43 am Reply
  • Brianne

    Oh no…is this true of the Izze sodas too? I always thought those were a better choice because of how few ingredients they have and that they aren’t too sweet. But I don’t see anything on the label about not using GMOs.

    August 13th, 2013 10:43 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      If it just says “sugar” or “real sugar” it is almost assuredly got GMO sugar in it. If it says “cane sugar”, you are ok.

      August 13th, 2013 10:49 am Reply
      • sc

        izze soda does not list sugar at all. they use juice concentrates and specify which ones (grape, blackberry, etc) in the ingredients however while they are not sweetened with beets that does not mean the fruits they use are non-GMO. I’m not saying they are just that they might be.

        September 8th, 2015 12:27 am Reply
    • CDavis

      I thought Izze soda’s were only sweetened with fruit juice (no added sugars).

      August 13th, 2013 11:22 am Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

        Then that should be fine. :)

        August 13th, 2013 11:43 am Reply
        • Brianne

          The sparkling juices have no added sugars (at least the grapefruit one in my fridge doesn’t) but they do have a few sodas, one which is ginger that I LOVE! But I looked at the label and it says “sugar” not “cane sugar”. Bummer :(

          August 13th, 2013 11:56 am Reply
  • Kim

    Thank you for your article. I am sharing it on Twitter and with friends and family. We must expose this and other “natural” lies. Great work!

    August 13th, 2013 10:24 am Reply
  • John

    As of last year I have sworn off anything processed. I am not shocked at all by your findings. Keep up the great job on this site!

    August 13th, 2013 8:42 am Reply

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