Dear EarthTalk: I saw an article on sugar's effects on the environment. Has anyone compared different sweeteners (artificial or natural) for their environmental impacts?
-- Terri Oelrich, via e-mail
The production of sugar has indeed taken a huge environmental toll. "Sugar has arguably had as great an impact on the environment as any other agricultural commodity," reports the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), citing biodiversity loss as a result of the "wholesale conversion of habitat on tropical islands and on coastal areas" to grow sugar. WWF adds that the cultivation of sugar has also resulted in considerable soil erosion and degradation and the use of large amounts of chemicals across the tropics and beyond.