The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved raw and refined sugar produced from Brazil’s first genetically modified (GM) sugarcane variety as safe, approving it for sale in the USA.

The FDA focused its safety assessment on sugar as it was the primary sugarcane-derived product imported from Brazil to the USA, said agritech company Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC) on 10 August.

CTC developed the insect resistant CTC20BT GM sugarcane variety as a response to the threat posed by the sugarcane borer, which was a major pest in Brazil and caused damages and losses worth an estimated US$1bn each year.

To combat the borer, CTC20BT was modified to produce the Cry1AB Bt protein, which CTC said had a long history of safe use and had been used in global agriculture for more than 20 years in biotech crops, such as maize and cotton.

CTC said that the evidence and studies it had submitted to the FDA convinced the agency that sugar produced from CTC20BT was as safe as sugar from conventional sugarcane varieties and that highly refined sugar produced from it was compositionally identical to conventionally produced sugar.

The FDA approval followed an approval by Canada’s top health authority Health Canada earlier in the year.

The CTC20BT sugarcane variety was first approved for cultivation by Brazil’s national biosafety technical committee CTNBio in June 2017.