Big Sugar

Big Sugar

2005, Economics  -   39 Comments
Ratings: 8.18/10 from 104 users.

The Union: The Business Behind Getting HighBig Sugar explores the dark history and modern power of the world's reigning sugar cartels.

Using dramatic reenactments, it reveals how sugar was at the heart of slavery in the West Indies in the 18th century, while showing how present-day consumers are slaves to a sugar-based diet.

Going undercover, Big Sugar witnesses the appalling working conditions on plantations in the Dominican Republic, where Haitian cane cutters live like slaves.

Workers who live on Central Romano, a Fanjul-owned plantation, go hungry while working 12-hour days to earn $2 (US).

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39 Comments / User Reviews

  1. DustUp

    Just to be clear, Stevia is good news.

  2. DustUp

    For more reference on what Sugar does to you, there was a book written long ago called "Sugar Blues". Others have been written since. Sucking on a stalk of sugar cane once in awhile isn't so bad. Concentrating it, boiling and bleaching it into something else is what makes it toxic. Just like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is not anything natural either but a modified concoction that is bad news. Although Stevia, also having some anti cancer properties, has a bit of a bitter after taste, certain things knock it out, like lemon.

    Yes unfortunately more corruption has found its way into the more and more socialistic arms of the usa. More govt = more socialism = more corruption. Sadly the socialist propagandists and so called educators have indoctrinated those too lazy to make a few mouse clicks to check out what they have been fed. Let's call it the sugar coating of socialism.

    To think socialism is not corrupt is not to think.

    Capitalism is the ability to trade freely among yourselves. Study Fascism(more accurately called Corporatism, as Mussolini stated), that is what you are looking at, not Capitalism. Study Socialism or any other form of govt and you will find corruption in spades, for their whole purpose is corrupt, to eliminate the competition to benefit the big boys whilst claiming you are "helping"(making less opportunity) for the little guy.

    The industry doesn't need controlling, you need to control (oust) your politicians who welcome the corruption. If they can require warning labelling on cigarettes, they should require it on products with added sugar and HFCS in it. The problem is us, all inclusive worldwide. If you whine and point fingers rather than look in the mirror at the real problem of not demanding better politicians and shepherding them with a short cane...

    Should be making ethanol fuel out of the sugar instead of eating it, to kill three birds with one stone. 1. Competition to big oil. 2. Competition to big sugar. 3. Less sugar in your food. However, unless you can figure out how to gain govt support to do that in such a corrupt govt as most are, with big sugar being able to out "donate" you, your efforts will get thwarted. Maybe if you have a bunch of ex Special Forces friends who want to give it a go. How many times will an insurance company insure you if your plant magically goes up in flames? Once. They will soon investigate or realize what really happened.

    What would happen to you if you were able to give all those modern day slaves a decent job? I suggest discreetly running people for govt there who hate sugar first before attempting anything else. To the point those you are running claiming in the elite circles they are for big sugar.

    Or you could concentrate on the slums, gang BS, and lack of opportunity etc. closer to home. Few countries have a shortage of people that need more opportunity. Eventually the welfare will run out.

  3. Gleep Glop

    The real problem with "Big Sugar" is that it is entirely created by government policy. Sugar subsidies are one of the best examples of crony capitalism ever devised,

  4. cindy

    Eating "real food" is nearly impossible for those at the bottom of the economic scale. From my observation, the only foods without added sugar are high-priced fresh foods, which they can't afford, or those that require lengthy prep time, which those working long hours at multiple jobs don't have. Extra sugar should be a choice, not foisted on everyone. For those who are genetically predisposed, added sugar causes diabetes. Once diabetes has developed, added sugar is a *poison* causing all sorts of complications. Added sugar also causes sugar addiction. What is the difference between adding sugar and adding cocaine?

  5. winston


  6. Gordon Jenkins

    If an industry kills people over one year, it is not murder. If that same industry is brought to the attention of Dr. Lustig's Research, and does nothing, then it is capital murder because they now know that fructose is a toxin and continue to administer the noxious and toxic substance after being made aware that it is toxic. Forget lawsuits, this is criminal capital murder on a massive scale. Citizens take to Arms!

  7. Margaret Harris

    Very interesting documentary. Glad I finally got here to see it. Most packaged products have their own criminal history and what the documentalists were very clear about was that this is the ongoing exploitation by the few of the many in the sugar industry and the varied and multiple damaging effects of - an historically intertwined economic, social and political process developed to its extreme in the West through slavery. That" malady" to quote the Guatemalan workers is now further exacerbated by the Fanjuls of Florida and other sugar Barons. Obesity is one of the dire results of the "pervasive consumption of sugar by many of those who can afford it and in striking contrast, poverty, malnutrition, disease and abuse and neglect of those responsible for getting that product from the fields. Once sugar has been refined and distributed the superprofits made, feed political campaigns, construct mansions, support hedonistic lifestyles, fire scientists and contribute to the deep polarisation between haves and haves not. Note: did not see a fat drug baron. Sugar happens to be real food too. Just like drugs, and tobacco, The industry on the whole needs to be controlled or it will continue to control us and wreck the lives of the especially poor and underpriveleged. We need another mass movement to protect them and our children from King Sugar.

  8. manfruss

    Nothing has changed in 1000's of years. Some still love to lord over others. Humanity has a long way to go before compassion and equality are common place and people don't seek to live over others.

    Lobbying, and wining and dinning public officials should become a felony, and punishable by sever means to keep it out of the picture. Of course that would just drive it underground. Needless to say, such corruptions are deep rooted and undermine our democracies. Visa has more political power than any citizens groups.

  9. Nonslaver

    It is one thing to pay poor, slave wages, but really sick, perverse stuff to not allow these destitute, hard working people the right to at least grow their own food!! And the man has the gall to try to foist his greed and lack of humanity on the "differences in labor in United States and the Dominican Republic" - boy is this man all there or what?

  10. Mediocrates

    Today it is oil. But sugar is still a blight on humanity. How can we stop this?

  11. Hugh John Murray

    Great to see this doc online and still getting hits! Was one of the most interesting docs I have had the pleasure to work on. A rarer notion these days, what with the cuts to CBC and the over abundance of formulaic reality-TV shows.

  12. Kitty

    The Fanjuls live in Miami, but they have never become American citizens.

  13. nomore

    Capitalism at work...

  14. Deborah Heath

    We can't change the past but we certainly can change the future and this is crazy. The slavery laws were replied here two centuries ago!

  15. sandi23

    It takes 16 ft of sugar cane to make 1 tsp of refined sugar. There are approximately 8 tsp of sugar in a can of pop.
    I have seen these sugar cane fields, Please support fair trade.

  16. alfredo z

    this tipe of fortune made exploiting people should be confiscated in a global scale and use to repair the dammage and the owner shoud go to trial , and the compays that promote an unhealthy way of life should be forced to pay a penalty.
    But that would be an ideal world , may be in another life

  17. alfredo z

    i know we live in a capitalist world , but is incredible that money made with injustice, slavery or poluting the enviroment worth the same for the banks as the one made with a life of hard work , like they say "Swiss banks clean more white"

  18. Yogen Rajyaguru

    I was just thinking, how many Einstein’s or great thinkers (etc) could we have lost due to these people being trapped in slavery.

    There is little avenue for full time work in helping the poor. What I am trying to say is for example, I would love to work full time for even half the salary that I am getting now. Yes, I would risk my "career" which is two to three steps above the bottom of the food chain.

  19. Insomnio

    The Fanjul Brothers from from Cuba... Now I finally understand why there's still an economic blockade trying to starve millions of Cubans and who might be behind this anachronistic blockade. A Cuban sociologist and writer friend of mine told me that there were very rich Cuban-American people enforcing every government to keep it. I said to myself: "who could be so mean to want to starve his own family and fellows for political reasons?"; now I know at least two Cuban-Americans that mean.
    I would want to believe that God will give justice to those people, but no; the Fanjul Brothers will die rich and happy and their employees will suffer for generations. That is "the American way".

  20. Rafa

    I am Dominican and admit this practice is shameful. It is a culturally acceptable phenom however ( a lot like US racism or the illegal Mexican issue in the US), because as every Dominican knows, there is one thing a Dominican will never do: cut sugar cane! On the other hand, I find the US practice of subsidizing the royal lifestyles of these sugar barons at the expense of the Haitianos is unforgivable and is the engine that perpetuates this madness. No money, no motivation.

    1. Camden Blowers

      I agree that Dominicans, or at least lighter-skinned people who would never be deported, are similar to U.S. citizens in that they would not cut cane. Though the documentary does not specify who exactly, it mentions that the top sugar barons in Dominican Republic include Dominican and Mexican millionaires. Shocking assumption: I believe Dominicans are responsible for the poor treatment and criminal deportations against Haitians. Having lived in Haiti for 13 years, I am aware of neocolonial influence in the island's affairs, but the DR needs to truly fight against injustice.

  21. raju

    Live sugar-free. It's easier than you think. Try it. The first week will be tough. After that, you won't even miss the sugar.

    1. ruffkutt the benefit of no type 2 diabetes and an attractive physique.

    2. Nic Petrykowski

      Comment deleted

  22. melissa

    OK, all fresh produce and REAL food is worth eating. What do you mean good luck not buying any more products with sugar in them?!?! That is so ignorant and negative. Stop buying packaged foods, eat less crap, eat real food. stop complaining and do something about it. EAT REAL FOOD. Most packaged products have their own criminal history, stop fueling their lies, wake up, it's time for a revolution. YOU CAN BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION.

  23. consistant

    now is the time to act, my friend says. we can do something. does anybody know what religion that priest man is? cause we could send $ to him.

  24. Bianca

    @S.P. Good luck on not buying any more products with sugar in them. Remember when looking at packaging that all carbohydrates, even those not specifically listed as sugar, will be turned in to sugar when processed by your body.

    Earlier I wanted to find a yoghurt drink which didn't have too much sugar in it. The 'least' amount I found was 9 grams per 100ml. Since most of those cartons have at least 1 liter, that would total up to 90 grams just from a drink which most people would consider safe as it's considered dairy.

    And TV dinners are so much worse... o_O

    People, read the labels!

  25. rox

    jsut because these people are paid that small amount it is called work is what is so horrific because otherwise nothing has changed it is slavery ! I cried each time I watched this movie watching that family struggle loose thier mother/wife .
    I'm trying to switch local honey or organic . if we can boycott south africa why not those countries which leagalize slavery like this .

  26. sh8ygr8y1980

    It's not just Big Sugar, it is Big Capitalism. It is the influence of the omnipresence of marketing psychologists and the finacially persuasive political/capitalist hand-shakes. We have become slaves to circumstance, apartheid, and addiction. I am a horse, and where is the water because I am thirsty! (that's for you "Henry H")

    1. Nic Petrykowski

      Comment deleted

  27. Henry H

    Unfortunately sugar is in everything we eat, it is hard to find something that does not contain sugar. I think the only weapon we have is awareness. The more people are made aware of the negative effects of OVER consumption the better. And of course people have to want to can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink. I think its sad when a society makes it cheaper for someone to buy foods that are not good for you as opposed to healthier choices. What does that say about us a society....not a heck of a lot in my opinion.

  28. Gedion G

    what keeps this sad corporate on its feet is the people who consume their product.if only people share what they knew and learned.that's one person at a time. then the feet of what seems a giant corporation will start to crumble.
    like most evil in the world they tread on the ignorance of the people.but with knowledge and awareness,the informed public can turn the tide for good. also thank you top doc.

  29. Sally

    Imagine, Halloween, an entire day devoted to over consuming sugar. Sugar is a drug people. Sugar has been excepted to give to our children. When I was 4 yrs old I got sick and vomited from too much candy on Halloween. Lets ban sugar. Honey, stevia, and guava are healthier sweetners. There is massive amounts of sugar and salt in our food and beverages.

  30. S.P.

    My god. How? How can this still be happening?
    I am not buying anything with sugar in it.

  31. tutu

    You work fast, Vlatko. I love your website. Keep it up.

  32. Vlatko

    Thanks to tutu the doc was updated with the second part.

  33. fillip Oh


  34. Michelle

    I am disgusted with the treatment of these people. La Romana is very well known for its paradise resort Casa del Campo. EVERY DOMINICAN, has heard of or may even have vistited Casa del Campo....and these people live in this squalor nearby.

    I am ANGRY and I am DISGUSTED and I will LEARN more about this. These people can not live like this.

  35. tutu

    How can the US government(politicians)allow this super-rich family to continue to do business as usual? Slave labor of Haitians in the Dominican Republic and Enviornmental offenders in Florida. This family receives $60 million of government subsidies for their sugar cane production in Florida; while they pollute the Everglades with agro-chemical runoff which spills into Florida Bay, and employ Haitians to cut cane for sub-human wages and let them live in horrifying conditions conditions. This is very disturbing to me.