Bittersweet swap

It’s hardly surprising that more and more farmers are abandoning tobacco as their cash crop. But I bet you’ll be surprised when you hear what might be growing in its place, if one California businessman gets his way.

Believe it or not, stevia leaves could soon be filling up all those empty fields. Apparently, they share enough agricultural similarities with tobacco to make the move fairly seamless for struggling farmers. And thanks to a recent boom in demand, it could come with a decent payday, too.

At first glance, replacing this country’s tobacco crop with stevia–my favorite sweetener, hands down–sounds like the real world equivalent of turning straw into gold. And in a country that practically runs on corn syrup, it could only be a good thing, right?

But on the other hand…I just can’t help wondering if we’re witnessing the beginnings of Big Stevia.

Presumably, a transition like this would only be profitable due to the growing popularity of stevia among the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. And suffice it to say that their stevia products are anything but natural.

These new sweeteners–like Truvia or PureVia–are heavily processed and packed with other ingredients. At the end of the day, we just don’t know how safe or healthy they really are. That’s why I can’t completely endorse their use.

Leave it to the food industry to take a good thing and turn it into a monster. And unfortunately, even stevia isn’t safe in their greedy little hands.

For the time being, though, real stevia is still widely available. Even many regular, large chain supermarkets carry it (next to the trendy brands I mentioned above). And I recommend sticking with it!

Farnham, Alan. “Goodbye tobacco, hello stevia, say tobacco growers.” Good Morning America. 15 Oct. 2013.