What do you think?
Feel free to discuss this issue further in the comments….
Did you hear the news this week? The FDA is close to approving genetically modified salmon. When I read about this for the first time earlier this week, I got a little knot in my stomach. I’ve always been opposed to GM foods but somehow, it felt a little easier to me to accept that man is messing with nature on a plant level. Once we begin to play god with higher order creatures…who knows what mayhem will ensue?
You see nature has a way of doing it’s own thing. Did you see Jurassic Park? The park owner hired geneticists who assured him that the cloned dinosaurs could not breed since they were sterile females. They ended up breeding anyway. I know what you are thinking: that was a fictional story. According to the article on GM salmon, the GM fish will be sterile females. The geneticists are doing this on purpose so that the salmon won’t be able to breed. If they get out, wild salmon stocks will be safe from contamination from these GM abominations. But, fish are strange creatures. They can change their sex from female to male if there are not enough males for breeding in a given population. It has also been documented that a shark held in captivity had a virgin birth. Hopefully fish cannot reverse sterilization.
As I was doing research for this post, I came across another scary article. According to this article, Russian scientists carried out an experiment where they fed GM foods to hamsters. The GM food was fed to each succeeding generation of hamster. Eventually, the fourth generation fed exclusively on a GM diet became sterile. Genetically modified foods are included in something like 75% of our processed foods now. This has been happening since the 1990’s. We should be on our second generation and going on our third generation of people who have been eating GM foods. This could get interesting pretty fast.
Now, I understand the urgency to get a salmon to market that will beef up to marketable size in fewer weeks than a conventional salmon would. Could you imagine how much money a McSalmon sandwich would make for McDonald’s? It would be huge for them! When beef cows and chickens were hybridized to grow to market size quickly, it revolutionized fast food. It made it possible to provide those billions of Big Macs and chicken McNuggets that are served every day. I just wish that corporate profits weren’t tied into the possibility that our health could be compromised in ways we never knew existed.
I am one angry little consumer and I am doing what I can. I try to vote with my dollars and I go to the FDA site to voice my disgust when they open things up to discussion. If I have no real say on the outcome of the decisions that the FDA makes on our behalf, then all I can wish for or hope for is that the FDA will finally help protect our interests just a bit and call for labeling of GM products. I just want to continue to at least think that I have a choice in regards to what I eat. Unless I am given the luxury of knowing what is in my food, I guess I will just remain afraid. Very afraid.
India rejected the nation’s first genetically modified food after their farmers protested. Good for them! Genetically modified food has not been tested on humans. Well…unless… you count the fact that in the U.S., we’ve been tested on for years without our knowledge. “Huh?” you say? According to this Wikipedia article, GM foods have been available to the processed food industry since the 1990s and 75% of all processed food contains at least one GM ingredient. Yep. I never signed on to be a lab rat and neither did you, but sometimes our rights as citizens are benignly neglected for a few dollars in the right pockets.
Now, let’s ignore the fact that we are lab rats for a minute and think about the other implications of genetic engineering. Companies are allowed to patent their GM seeds. Already, there are legal battles going on between corporations and farmers over the simple act of saving seeds for the next years crops. Farmers don’t own the patented seeds, Corporations do. Farmers are required to buy the seeds each time they want to grow a crop, they cannot save seed for this purpose as Farmers have for millennia. If Farmer’s can’t save patented seed, neither can we. Our basic right as humans to feed ourselves in a self-sufficient manner is being removed.
A friend of mine let me know about this documentary on Hulu.com (Thanks R.!). It is called The Future of Food and it runs about an hour and a half with short commercial breaks. If you have time, I encourage you to watch it.Vodpod videos no longer available.
I have been following this issue for years. For me, I try to avoid most processed foods unless they are made of mostly organic ingredients. I eat organics as much as I can and buy locally from farmers who use organic or sustainable practices and grow heirloom varieties of food. I have even gone so far as to seek out organic canola oil that has been tested for GMOs since canola has had problems with contamination in the past. It’s difficult and I don’t do a great job (I have a bit of a restaurant addiction) but I think it’s important to limit my exposure to GMOs as much as I can.
So much for the wonders of stem cell research. On the fringes of a science that promises us the cure for disease comes the secondary promise of true mystery meat. Yes, it’s true, we can look no further than the lab for the next pull on our wallets. Researchers see a world in which Soylent green is not people, it is pork with the texture of scallops grown in petri dishes and sold for pennies on the dollar.
We live in an interesting time. At the same instant that some people are yearning for real meat grown the old fashioned way on grass, seafood that is harvested from the wild and vegetables that are grown on small farms with no chemicals, we have cowboys running around leading the charge towards a world of purely processed manmade food. It seems to me that once you can grow meat from cells, there is no end to how it can be manipulated for taste, texture and scent.
This quote amazed me: “Fish stem cells could be used to produce healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which could be mixed with the lab-produced pork instead of the usual artery-clogging fats found in livestock meat.” Fish get their omega 3 fatty acids not from being fish, but from eating a diet based on plant matter (or in the case of carnivorous fish, eating other fish that dine on plant matter). Pasture raised terrestrial animals contain omega 3 fatty acids from eating grasses and plants. The whole reason that people eating a western diet are deficient in essential fatty acids such as omega 3s is because we don’t eat a diet based on leaves. We eat too many processed foods based on seeds and too much protein fatted up on seeds.
When lab produced meat becomes available, my only hope is that labeling laws become much better. At this point consumers are left on their own to figure out what is in their food, from genetically modified organisms to trans fatty acids. Hopefully, we will get the chance to choose between natural and unnatural “meat”.
I’ve wanted to talk about this for some time. Please bear with me as I may seem a little hypocritical when you consider the percentage of recipes on this blog that are sweet. What I want to make you aware of is the fact that excessive amounts of sugar are bad for you. You may already know this. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t really care. Maybe you should care. It is really important for your well being.
Tonight, the American Heart Association came out with a warning that we need to cut the amount of sugar in our diets. They say the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The average American teenager consumes 34 teaspoons of added sugar a day. When they say “added” they mean on top of the natural sugar we are eating from fruits and other carbohydrates. What does 22 teaspoons of sugar look like? I couldn’t resist finding out. See the picture above. That is an eight inch diameter plate. The pile was about 2 inches high! To put things in perspective, the AHA recommendation is that women should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day and men should eat no more than 9 teaspoons per day.
Where is all of this sugar coming from? It could be coming from soft drinks and sweets but it is likely coming from processed foods. In my opinion, I eat a healthy diet, but there are a few processed foods in my home for convenience. I get these products from health food stores and stores like Trader Joes that don’t use a lot of processed ingredients. Here is what a quick perusal of my pantry turned up:
Trader Joes brand spaghetti sauce: evaporated cane juice.
Pitted kalamata olives packed in extra virgin olive oil imported from Greece: glucose.
S & W organic tomato sauce: organic sugar.
Hain all natural Canola mayonnaise: dehydrated cane juice and honey.
Milton’s multi grain baked snack crackers: sugar and invert cane juice.
Doctor Kracker organic artisan baked spelt crackers: agave syrup, molasses, and barley malt syrup.
Kashi go lean hot cereal: evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup and honey.
The AHA is concerned for us because the extra sugar likely means we are unconsciously consuming extra calories. A lot of us have inactive lifestyles and if we do not get extra exercise to burn off the extra calories, we gain weight and risk heart disease and diabetes. These concerns while valid don’t tell the entire story. Sugar also prematurely ages us. An article in Prevention magazine talks about the damage sugar does to the proteins in our skin. If this is happening to our skin, the biggest organ in our bodies, I wonder what it may be doing to our other organs!
What can we do to protect ourselves? First off, read labels and be aware of what you are buying. Second, cook as much of your own food as you can. It is the only way to really know what is on your plate. As the cook, you can reduce the amount of sugar in your food by adjusting it downward as low as you can tolerate it and as low as a recipe can stand without ruinous results. Know your sugars. While all sugar is bad in excess, some sugar such as honey or molasses have trace nutrients and while they are not exactly health food, you will get a little more added nutrition than if you used processed granulated sugar.
Please let me know your thoughts on this matter. Have you been aware of this issue already? What do you do to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet? Do we as bloggers have a responsibility to show our readers a healthy diet or are we just a tourist stop on the internet foodie trail?
Adapted from Gourmet, August 1995
Add chopped garlic and salt to a mortar and use a pestle to grind the garlic and salt into a paste. Don’t worry if there are still some garlic chunks but you want it ground enough to make a wet paste. If your mortar is large enough, add chili powder, cumin, sugar and Worcestershire sauce, if not transfer garlic to a bowl and mix in the preceding ingredients.
This recipe makes enough rub for two to three pounds of steak or a roast such as tri tip. Cover the meat in the rub and allow it to marinate for at least 4 hours and up to two days. Cook the meat on a barbeque to the desired doneness.
Judging from some of the interesting comments I get on this blog, most people would be happy if I stuck to cooking and stopped talking about food issues, but I read the news way too much and then I just can’t help myself!
Today it was announced that the FDA has approved cloned animals to enter our food supply. Aside from the visceral reaction I get whenever I read about some new frankensteinian change to our food supply, I really do have valid concerns this time. A healthy food chain is a diverse food chain. A population of animals or plants can survive a catastrophic disease or a change in environment much easier if there is genetic diversity. If we begin to clone the “best” animals to be the parents of our food animals, we may eventually have millions of cows who have a desirable trait such as highly marbled meat but who lack the genes to fend off certain diseases. So really, my concern is food security. We have already lost many heritage breeds of animals and heirloom plants, old varieties that we can breed back to if we need certain traits. The animals and plants we raise for food are already very identical to each other. Adding cloning into the mix will make them even more similar.
One extreme event in our history we can refer back to in order to understand my concern over cloning is the Irish potato famine. One variety of potato out of the possible thousands of varieties found in Peru was brought back to and grown in Ireland. This variety of potato was successful both as a crop and as a desirable new food. The potato became a staple food that people depended on as a major source of their calories. Potato blight wiped out the monoculture crop of potatoes that Ireland depended on. Over a million people perished.
Now it would be silly to say we would all starve to death if all of the cows or sheep or pigs died, but we are a very meat centric society here in the U.S. and our economy would take quite a hit if our meat industry were somehow decimated. McDonalds doesn’t claim to have served a hundred billion burgers for nothing!
Anyway…just a little food for thought.
November 15, 2007 at 3:17 am (Special discussion topics)
Early in the summer as I was thinking about my contribution to the obesity epidemic, global warming and the political implications of how we as a country have to import so much oil, I realized that something a former boss of mine used to chant: “Food is fuel” is absolutely true in so many ways. When we eat too much food and don’t get enough movement in our daily lives, we store it away for later use. If we have a storage unit going and we want to walk to the store, we have the energy to do it right there. We could mine the fat in our bodies to transport ourselves places! Early in the summer when my thoughts ran this way, I was trying to make an effort to use my fat stores instead of gas. I got a ride into work a few times and made the hour walk home. I walked forty-five minutes each way to the bank one day and even walked a half hour each way to the post office to drop off a letter. Then my old habits kicked in. I started taking the car everywhere again. Why? Well, walking is damn hard. It is also time consuming. In order to make these trips by foot, I needed to make sure I had the time to do it. I also had to plan out how to carry things if needed. It took effort and I got lazy.
Why do I bring this up as a discussion point? In case you didn’t see it, a new article broke a few days ago in the news that verified my own train of thought. Here is an excerpt:
“America’s obesity epidemic and global warming might not seem to have much in common. But public health experts suggest people can attack them both by cutting calories and carbon dioxide at the same time. How? They advise that people get out of their cars and walk or bike half an hour a day instead of driving. And also they suggest eating less red meat. That’s how Americans can simultaneously save the planet and their health, say doctors and climate scientists.The payoffs are huge, although unlikely to happen. One numbers-crunching scientist calculates that if all Americans between 10 and 74 walked just half an hour a day instead of driving, they would cut the annual U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, by 64 million tons.About 6.5 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved. And Americans would also shed more than 3 billion pounds overall, according to these calculations.” Read the full article here.
Here are some things to think about and discuss. Feel free to bring in your own thoughts if I didn’t bring them up.
1. The U.S. consumes about 20 billion barrels of oil per day. The article seemed to suggest we would save 6.5 billion gallons of gasoline annually. Would this make much of a dent in how much oil we need to import? In how much we contribute to global warming?
2. If you were to really look at your lifestyle, would you be able to find the time necessary to run errands by bike or by foot.
3. Do you think your quality of life would improve by making this small change in your life?
4. The article also mentions cutting down on red meat. Would this be something you are willing to do and do you think a healthier diet would give you better endurance to travel by foot or bike?
5. What advantages are there to walking or biking for errands as exercise over going to a gym?
Let me begin the discussion:
1. I think that every little bit of oil we save is beneficial to us. Not only will we be keeping the air clean and the planet from warming, but we spend that much less money helping the economies of countries that are not necessarily our best friends.
2. If I were to look hard at my lifestyle, I waste a lot of time on the computer and in front of the TV. I need to work on shifting my ideas of what is a good use of my leisure time. I was more successful at walking to my errands on the weekend when I didn’t have to be anywhere by a certain time.
3. I think my quality of life would improve if I could walk to my errands. When I did so a few times, I felt relaxed. I was able to think about things uninterrupted. I was able to observe things I didn’t notice in my car. I felt like I really got exercise. You can’t really get the kind of exercise on a machine that you get when you have to balance yourself over uneven terrain.
4. I don’t eat beef. I won’t bore you or horrify you with the reasons why. I do eat pork or lamb occasionally. I am trying to cut down to a more plant based diet. I believe the complex carbs one gets when they eat a more plant based diet is beneficial to our energy levels and would help with endurance when walking or bike riding.
5. Like I mentioned before. When you are outside, you are connected to what you are doing. You work many muscles and you increase your ability to balance. You get fresh air and your mind gets a work out. We are so attached to our virtual worlds. Getting outside is as important to the body as nutrients are.
I look forward to reading your thoughts!
November 3, 2007 at 9:02 pm (Special discussion topics)
My blog has been up and running for a couple of months now. Through the magic of the blog stats that WordPress provides to us happy Bloggers, I can see that there are now a few people accidentally bumping into my blog on a daily basis. The information is pretty vague, but from this data, I can also surmise that some of you possibly like what you see here and you are returning periodically, cup of coffee in your hand, to see what’s new. You seem to be a shy group of people. You stop by, take a look and then move on without saying hello. I would like to change all of that. From now on, when I have the time to put up a new post, I will try to follow the post with a discussion topic. Please introduce yourself by joining in. I hope this will be fun for all of us. Be as outlandish as you want with your replies. Keep it PG-13 if possible and try to be nice to your fellow man or woman. I am the equivalent of god on this site and I reserve the right to delete any comments that get vicious in any way shape or form.
Here is the premiere topic of discussion:
If you were a pancake, what kind would you be? What famous person, living or dead would like to eat you? Why?
Thanks in advance for playing. I look forward to the discussion.