People who want to avoid genetically engineered sugar this year should think twice about one of the alternatives. Sucralose, or Splenda, is reportedly pervasive in Norway and Sweden's wastewater, leaving some scientists worried about the sugar-like substance's effect on the environment.
Data shows that Splenda is excreted by humans nearly 100 percent unchanged, and can persist in the environment for years. Some scientists say the substance could change organisms' feeding behaviors and interfere with plant photosynthesis. They report, for example, that it could possibly shut down CO2 uptake in algae.
Splenda was approved in the 1990s for human consumption in Canada and the US, followed by EU countries. None of these countries thought it necessary to conduct an environmental impact assessment since the chemical wasn't considered toxic in any way.
Now, as questions about the unintended consequences of the chemical's persistence in the environment mount, testing for such impacts may be tricky. As one scientist reported, testing methods for potential impacts of a sugar-like substance on ecosystems don't exist.
Sweden has started discussions with the EU about other food additives on the market that may warrant environmental review, citing the lack of inquiry into potential impacts of these substances on the environment.