Category Archives: Food glorious food

New genetic modification techniques – Australia

The following is a quote from an email I received today regarding the approval of new GM tech in Australia:

Next week Dr Michael Antoniou, Reader in Molecular Genetics at King’s College London School of Life Sciences will be visiting Melbourne. He is here to discuss his concerns with a range of new genetic engineering techniques that the Federal Government is currently proposing not to regulate.
If the Government deregulates these techniques anyone from amateur biohackers – to industry – would be free to use them to genetically modify plants, animals and microbes. And they could enter our food chain and our environment with no safety testing and no labelling. The results could be catastrophic.

The key phrase is ‘proposing not to regulate‘, closely followed by ‘no safety testing‘ and ‘no labelling‘.

Genetic modification is here to stay and we have to accept that, but we do not have to accept a wild, wild west style free-for-all. Surely an ethical approach is not too much to ask from our government, even the Liberals?

The ‘GM 2.0: What the Government isn’t telling you’ forum is being held next Monday:
6.30 (for a 7pm start) – 9pm, Monday 20th March
William Angliss Institute: Rm. A337, Building A, 555 La Trobe St., Melbourne

Please email Louise Sales <louise.sale@foe.org.au> for a ticket if you can attend [they’re free].

If not, please get people talking about this issue. Isn’t it time our opinions were heard? Corporations may stand to make a lot of money out of this, but you and I will be the bunnies who have to live with it.

cheers

Meeks


Glyphosate and autism…or is it?

I would very much like to believe that the glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup is toxic, but I’ve just found a comment that brings the current ‘proof’ into question. The comment, from Henry, is copy-pasted below.

I have to admit that the word “autism” troubled me a great deal when reading this piece. The whole debacle with vaccines and autism has been quite well-publicised as an example of bad science. The reason why autism spectrum disorder always seems to pop up should be clear.
Autism spectrum disorder affects children. And there are a lot of concerned and frightened parents in the world, who look things up on the internet.
It turns out Stephanie Seneff is quite infamous for a paper she co-wrote in 2013. Here are two links to articles debunking her paper at the time by people more familiar with the topic than I am.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-haspel/condemning-monsanto-with-_b_3162694.html
http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/12/31/oh-no-gmos-are-going-to-make-everyone-autistic/
Some of the main points in the articles are that:
– Correlation between glyphosate use and autism over time does not prove causality; indeed there is a similar correlation between organic food sales and autism.
– Showing that a compound affects an enzyme in gut bacteria is far removed from showing any link with any disease, let alone proving that the compound causes autism specifically.
– “Exogenous semiotic entropy”, a phrase used in the paper, is made-up.
– The paper contains no original research.
Now this is not to defend Monsanto as an organisation (the interplay of intellectual property and genetics is something I’m really not comfortable with). But please let’s not get into fearmongering. I really admire this blog because the information you throw light on is not just interesting, but also accurate.
Thanks for your consideration~
Henry

I have followed both links and read them. Honestly, I no longer know what to think. Please read Henry’s comment and let’s talk about this. I have someone with Ulcerative Colitis in the family so this is rather important to me.

As a lay person, I can’t speak for any of the facts, on either side, but the disruption of the shikimate pathway in gut bacteria does worry me. We do not know everything there is to know about either the human body or the bacteria that live in our gut and seem to have a symbiotic relationship with us. At the very least, I’d like to see some serious research into what effect, if any, the glyphosate has on our gut bacteria. All? Or just a few? Which ones? And does it matter to them? If it does matter, then I’d like to know if it affects us and in what ways.

I think these are valid questions, but as far as I know, the research hasn’t been done, and that is the problem with the correlation vs causation argument: until we can disprove any harmful connection between glyphosate and shikimate pathways and gut bacteria and humans, we cannot prove that there is no causation either. Examples off the top of my head include: smoking and lung cancer, asbestos and mesothelioma, h.pylori and stomach ulcers, thalidomide and birth defects, human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. I was tempted to mention agent orange but I have no idea where the research is on that one.

I’m not saying the glyphosate/shikimate pathways/gut bacteria situation is the same, but the question has been raised, and I’d hate to throw the baby out with the bath water. Whether the answer will have anything to do with autism [or ulcerative colitis] is irrelevant. This is something we need to know, and I, for one, do not trust Monsanto to provide a non-biased answer.

Please tell me what you think.

Meeks


#Monsanto, Roundup and the spike in #autism

Like a lot of people, I’ve worried that GMOs would cause health problems down the track, but I assumed that Monsanto’s Roundup was just another weedkiller. Wrong. Roundup has been the villain of the piece all along. 😦

Before you  watch the video talk below, let me give you a very quick roundup [excuse the pun] of how this all began. The first genetically modified food product was the Flavr Savr tomato. The company that produced it was bought out by Monsanto, but Monsanto was not in the business of producing food, it was in the business of producing weedkiller. So why buy the GMO technology? The reason was to produce food crops that would be, effectively, immune to the effects of its Roundup Ready product. Such crops would, effectively, extend the life of the Roundup product indefinitely.

To achieve this goal, Monsanto needed to get its Roundup tolerant crops into commercial production as quickly and cheaply as possible. This meant two things:

  • circumventing the testing protocols that apply to medicinal drugs
  • and avoiding the necessity for product labelling

The development of medicinal drugs is a very long and costly process as the drugs have to be tested extensively, not only to prove their efficacy, but also to prove that they don’t do more harm than good. All of this research, development and testing takes years and costs a lot of money. A lot of years and a ton of money. At about the 6 minute mark of the video, you’ll hear that Monsanto only tested their product for 3 months. And no, that was not a typo. As for labelling, the US still doesn’t have it.

The Frankenfoods protests focused everyone’s attention on the GMOs themselves, and environmentally they are still a huge concern. But in all the outrage, the effects of Roundup slipped quietly under the radar. It was meant to be safe. Monsanto said it was safe. Right…

glyphosate-damage

Even if you’re not a ‘scientific’ person, Stephanie Seneff explains her findings in a clear, easy to understand way, and this is information we all need to know. The bit about glyphosate accumulating in breast milk really floored me.

My thanks to D.Wallace Peach for opening my eyes. First DDT, now Roundup. We are what we eat, and it’s hurting us in stealthy, insidious ways, starting with our children.

roundup-in-rats

Bon appetit,

Meeks


GMOs – currently in Australia

Some time ago, I sent a protest email regarding genetically modified wheat [via Change.org??]. To my great surprise, I was put on a database to receive notification of various field trials etc.

To my great shame, I did not look into these trials the way I should have. I guess I assumed others with more knowledge would ‘do something about it’. 😦

Today I received notification of one field trial I could not ignore. It had to do with Monsanto. At first, I was worried that knowledge of this application was secret, but I found that information, and a whole lot more, on the government’s own website. Here is a portion of it:

australia-current-gmo

Clicking on the screenshot should display the image in full.

And just in case you can’t read the web address, here it is :

http://www.ogtr.gov.au/internet/ogtr/publishing.nsf/Content/ir-1

The reason I’m posting about this is because:

  • I was shocked at how many field trials and commercial applications there are – the list literally goes on and on, and
  • I’m pretty sure that the general public hasn’t got a clue how much is going on behind our backs – notice the genetically modified banana???

I’ve always believed that there is a place for gene engineering, so long as:

  • it is properly controlled with all possible safeguards in place
  • and is for the benefit of humanity in general – such as a new vaccine.

The problem with genetic engineering carried out by Monsanto et al., is that they do not use genetic engineering for ‘altruistic’ purposes, and they do not have to apply the same rigorous and expensive testing as do GMOs destined for drugs/medicine.

Given the length of the list on the government website, I suspect the horse has bolted, but we may still be able to protect our organic growers from cross contamination…if we show that we do care.

Please spread the word about this list as far as you can. 😦

Meeks

 


#Recipe – Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a superb, vegetarian dish by Maria Luisa Taglienti, dating back to 1955. I’m a committed carnivore and not a huge fan of cheese, but even I love this dish. And it’s not hard to make.

Ingredients for the tomatoes

  • 4 large tomatoes, the firmer the better
  • 1/4 cup of rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped continental parsley
  • 1/3 cup diced cream cheese [Neuchatel or Philadelphia]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper [white]

Method

Pre-head oven to moderate [just under 180C in a fan bake oven].

Cook the rice in salted water for 10 minutes. It should still be a little hard in the middle. Drain.

Mix the rice with 4 tablespoons of butter, the two cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper. This is your ‘stuffing’.

Take out the core of each tomato, including the seeds/pulp, [and set aside if making the optional sauce]. You should now have 4 ‘cups’.

Sprinkle the inside of each cup with salt and pepper, then stuff with the cheese mix.

Butter a baking dish and place the stuffed tomatoes inside with a knob of butter on top of each one.

Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until golden on top.

Optional green beans and simple tomato sauce

While the tomatoes are baking, lightly fry a small, chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. When golden and aromatic, add 1 sachet of tomato paste [approx. 1 tablespoon] and the pulp taken from the inside of the tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, stir and cook on a low heat until the stuffed tomatoes are done.

While the sauce is simmering, top and tail a handful of green beans per person and steam until cooked but still firm.

To serve

Serve the stuffed tomatoes with the steamed green beans, the red sauce and crusty white bread. Enjoy!

Meeks


#gene editing vs #GMOs

I just read an article about a scientist at Umea university in Sweden who was given permission to grow ‘gene edited’ cabbage in his own garden because…gene editing is not the same as genetic modification.

The regulations around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products have been tricky to navigate, and plants that fall within the definition of a GMO effectively can’t be grown in the field in Europe.

To overcome this, the team at Umea University appealed to the Swedish Board of Agriculture to allow its particular strain of cabbage to fall outside the definition of a GMO. And it worked: since the mutation that causes a lack of the PsbS protein is naturally occurring in some cases, simply intervening to deliberately switch it off is acceptable, as long as no foreign DNA is introduced.

And therein lies the supposed difference between edited and modified genes:

  • modified genes have something added,
  • edited genes merely have something turned off.

The fact that both techniques produce a change in the DNA of the organism is, apparently, ‘a mere technicality, Mr dear Watson’.

I am no geneticist, but I am interested in the field and I can remember when it was thought that genes were all that mattered. In fact, large sections of DNA were considered to be ‘junk’ because they did not ‘do’ anything. Then, as years went by, scientists discovered that this ‘junk’ DNA wasn’t junk at all. They also discovered that genes can be turned on and off and that it is this malleability that is important. Then they discovered that groups of genes, turned on and off, had an effect in combination…

My point in all of this is that genetics is still an evolving science. Geneticists do not know all there is to know about DNA. At best, given the current state of knowledge, they can make educated guesses, but following through with those guesses involves an element of risk. That risk is recognized in the creation of new medicines which must go through years of clinical trials to reduce the likelihood of adverse reactions amongst those who will take those medicines.

With food plants, however, slippery language has allowed geneticists to alter the DNA of plants without having to subject them to the same rigorous testing as medicines. Monsanto began the ‘spin’ by convincing the FDA that genetically altered plants were ‘substantially equivalent’ to their commercially grown cousins, and therefore did not require the same degree of testing.

The argument behind ‘substantial equivalence’ is that farmers have been breeding – i.e. changing the DNA of – plants for millenia and genetic modication is no different, just a bit…faster. The fact that back then, genetic modification was a shotgun approach, literally, by scientists who knew a whole lot less than they do now, did not seem to bother anyone, least of all the FDA. And the fact that US consumers were given no choice in the matter still doesn’t bother the US authorities.

Now, Umea university is playing fast and loose with language again. Why? In order to get around the law as it stands in Europe. New tool, new language, same old spin, same old lie.

The following is an email I sent off just before writing this post:

genetic-editing-email

I don’t expect to receive a response, other than perhaps something derogatory, but I had to make the effort because we in the West are dying of spin, dying of lies, dying of hypocrisy.

Is it really so much to ask that our leaders, and the most emminent minds of our scientists act with integrity?

We are not children, and we are not stupid. If the only way you can get what you want is by trying to fool us, then what you want is not worth having.

Meeks

 


From disaster to a delicious biscuit

Okay, for my US friends, our biscuits are your cookies so this is a cross between a sweet lemon cakelet and a ‘cookie’. Ta dah….:

lemon biscuit recipe 001

The outside is lovely and crisp, but despite being so thin, the inside remains just a tiny bit soft and chewy:

lemon biscuit recipe 002

Before I write up the recipe I should explain that this started out as a kind of lemon tart cake that went very wrong. Cakes are not my forte, but I suspect the original recipe was at fault as it called for a tart base made from self-raising flour. Into this uncooked tart base went a very nice, cooked lemon filling and the whole lot was supposed to bake in the oven until it turned into a tart.

I don’t have a picture, but my lovely lemon tart turned into something resembling a soufle. It overflowed the baking dish like Vesuvius and made a sweet-smelling mess of my oven. What little I could salvage tasted like lemon toffee cake. I was not happy.

To cut a long story short, I had just enough unsalted butter left over to try the cake part of the recipe as a biscuit, and at last something worked! Here it is.

Ingredients

60 gm unsalted butter

1 cup self-raising flour

1/2 cup caster sugar

the rind of one lemon, finely grated

1 whole egg

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160 C [if using fan-bake] or 180 C if just using the ordinary oven setting [this is a moderate oven].

Line baking trays with baking paper. [You will need more than one tray as the biscuit mix spreads out quite a lot as it bakes so the biscuits have to be spaced fairly wide apart].

Toss the flour, sugar and grated lemon rind together [to spread the lemon flavour evenly]. Add the butter and cut it into small chunks with a knife, mixing into the flour as you go. Once the chunks are small enough, rub the flour mix and butter between your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Lightly beat the egg and add it to the butter mix until you get a fairly smooth ‘paste’.

Spoon heaped teaspoons of the paste onto the trays, leaving at least 2 inches between each one, and place in the oven. Baking time is approx. 10 minutes or until the biscuits are firm in the middle and slightly golden around the edges. Allow to cool on the tray if you can wait that long…-rolls eyes-…we didn’t.

The quantity given should make approximately 24 biscuits which sounds like quite a lot, but they are very moorish. If anyone manages to keep some for more than a few minutes I’d love to know how long they last. 🙂

Happy Sunday,

Meeks

 


The new, improved #BBQShapes – YUCK!

The name on the pack says ‘Arnotts’, but that venerable Australian biscuit maker was bought out by Campbells some years ago. At first, nothing seemed to change, and flavours such as BBQ Shapes remained a family favourite, at least in this family. Then the little flavour sprinkles on the shapes became thinner on the biscuit, making each Shape taste blander.

Cost cutting?

XX number of flavour sprinkles less per biscuit probably did add up to a dollar saving over squillions of biscuits…

-sigh- We grumbled a little but continued to buy BBQ Shapes because less of a much loved flavour was still better than no flavour at all.

And now this…

BBQ shapes throw up

In the interests of my own breakfast, I took a screenshot of this VINE instead of displaying the original* [he really does throw up, not pretty]. Sadly, the point he makes is all too true – the new, improved BBQ Shapes are revolting. I know because I bought and tried them yesterday.

So what’s so very wrong with them? Two things:

  1. savoury biscuits should not taste sweet – the new BBQ Shapes do. I know Americans are used to having everything much sweeter than we do here in Australia – I remember being shocked at the sweet aftertaste of scrambled eggs during a visit many years ago – but why would Campbells buy out a highly successful Australian company only to homogenize the product to something the original customers will hate?
  2. the new flavour plastered over the back and front of the biscuit is like…I don’t know, those horrible Maggi instant noodles? I can’t quite put my finger on the flavour but it overpowers the ‘proper’ flavour with a really unpleasant aftertaste. To me, the flavour tastes like something concocted in a test tube – chemical and…horrible.

And the biscuits now look disgusting too. Okay, I know that makes three things not two, but who’s counting? The new, improved Shapes look as if they’ve been sprinkled with kacky brown ‘dirt’.

I was going to show a before and after shot of the BBQ Shapes, but in searching online for a ‘before’ pic, I discovered that THEY have brought back the original flavour – obviously in response to public outrage. Unfortunately, I don’t know where the new stocks have gone because at the moment, my local Coles only stocks this disgusting rubbish.

Anyway, whilst it’s nice to know that Campbells has bowed to public demand, I’m still outraged at having to go through all this in the first place. One box of Shapes may not cost much, but I buy very little processed food so I may never buy another box – even if the ‘original’ does come back.

-grump-

Meeks

 

*If anyone is desperate to see the entire thing, Google ‘Christian Hull’ or ‘#bbqshapes VINE’.

 


#Feijoa bounty! Updated April 16, 2016

Just have a look at my harvest of feijoa!

feijoua bounty

And the trees are still groaning with fruit:

feijoua tree1

feijoua tree2

The two trees shown above are about seven years old, but this year is the first time we’ve had a crop. And it’s all due to mushroom compost! I fed the two trees in early spring, and I’ve watered them over most of the summer and it’s insane how much fruit they’ve given back.

The Offspring and I have been eating them for two weeks now, and I’ve given bagfuls to the neighbours, but I think I’ll have to put some out by the front gate tomorrow with a sign that reads – FREE to a good stomach.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. some of you may know the feijoa as the pineapple guava. 🙂

p.p.s. and this is what they look like on the inside [you scoop them out with a spoon]:

feijoa on the inside 003

 


Vertical Farming, now and into the future

The key concept in the following video is that cities can become food producers instead of just food consumers…via vertical farming. But what is vertical farming? Is it the kind of inner city, urban farming that happened in Havana [Cuba]? Or is it ‘just’ hydroponics farming? Or is it something more?

The examples of vertical farming begin at about 11 minutes into this 13 minute video. Well worth the investment in time.

My thanks to A.C. Stark for introducing me to both the video and the concept of vertical farming. A.C. Stark’s site is full of interesting posts that range from politics to climate change.

cheers

Meeks


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