This second paper on sugar from the FRC explores the environmental and social implications of sugar consumption. It summarises global evidence on sugar’s impacts and considers attempts to create fairer and better sugar sources. It proposes that this broader socio-environmental picture of sugar should be included by policy-makers alongside the strong evidence on sugar consumption’s harmful impact on public health. In the coming food world of squeezed resources – land, inputs, ecosystems –serious questions should be asked about whether mass growth of sugar production is any more a good thing than is continued sweetening of the UK’s (and the world’s) diet. If not, societies need to begin experimenting with, and planning for, alternative land use and employment possibilities.
Some observers may see the demise of the sugar industry in certain countries or regions as an environmental and social gain from the reduced environmental footprint and a reduction in the poor social conditions under which some sugar cane workers are employed. But others already argue that this is to consign weak actors in the sugar and food systems to a terrible fate. We share both views and argue that, surely, more attention ought to be given to chart a better form of employment and land use; better health and environment.
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