Category Archives: Food

Rule Five GMO Friday

I stumbled across this earlier in the week, and found it an interesting read; turns out folks who oppose GMO crops are the least well-informed as to what GMO technology actually is.  Color me surprised.  Excerpts, with my comments, follow:

A 2019 study, in fact, found that as opposition to GM technology  increased, scientific knowledge about genetics and GMOs decreased, but self-assessment increased. GMO opponents think they know the most, but in fact they know the least.  Other studies show that consumers have generally low scientific knowledge about GMOs. There is also evidence that fixing the knowledge deficit, for some people, can reduce their opposition to GMOs (at least temporarily). We clearly need more research, and also different people oppose GMOs for different reasons, but at least there is a huge knowledge deficit here and reducing it may help.

It‘s no secret that we have done a shitty job of general science education in this country for several generations.  Just listen to any politician whining that we should “listen to science,” or that “science says this,” or “science will win!”  Science isn’t an ideology and it isn’t some magical entity that makes pronouncements; science is a tool, a method for examining data and arriving at theories to explain that data.

It’s also important to note that the term “theory” as used in the scientific method is not the same as in general parlance. Isaac Asimov astutely pointed out that most people use the term as though “…it were something you dreamed up after being drunk all weekend.”  But the proper definition is this:  A coherent group of propositions formulated to explain a group of facts or phenomena in the natural world and repeatedly confirmed through experiment or observation.

Repeatedly confirmed.  Remember that.

Further, adoption of GMOs does, in fact, increase ultimate crop yield. The myth that they don’t is mostly due to the persistent anti-GMO smear campaign, largely funded by the organic industry, but is helped by several layers of confusion on this issue. First, we always have to be cautious when discussing “GMOs” because they are not one thing. Genetic modification is a technology, not an application. Yet anti-GMO propaganda has successfully tied the technology to just one application – use of herbicides. Many opponents still conflate the two in their mind. It is true that the first widely adopted GMO traits were for pest resistance (such as Bt) and herbicide tolerance (specifically glyphosate), and so some opinions are based on this 20 year-old impression of GMOs. But the number and type of GM traits is expanding significantly in recent years, so that impression is out-of-date.

Catch that main point there?  GMO is a technology, and not a new one; we have effectively been genetically modifying agricultural plants and animals for many thousands of years.  We have done it by grafting, by selective breeding, by hybridization and now, by directly modifying, adding or deleting genes.  The tools differ but the process is not new.

For example, C4 rice and wheat could make a huge contribution. Some plants use C3 photosynthetic pathways, while other use C4, which is more efficient. Rice and wheat use C3, but if we can engineer them to use C4 we could get a 50% increase in yield with fewer inputs.

Speaking as a biologist, C4 wheat or rice would be a huge deal.  A 50% increase in yield, it is important to note, means you could produce the same yield on 50% less land.

Recent applications already in the field, that reduce browning and improve drought tolerance, already increase yield. Other GM applications, such as golden rice, improve the nutritional quality of staple crops, reducing malnutrition.

To reinforce this main point – GM is a technology, and we have to judge each application and each GM crop on its own merits. We also have to think about the whole system, not just the crop. When you do it is clear that GM technology is incredibly powerful and useful, and is our best hope for meeting the nutritional needs of the world population while minimizing our carbon and land footprint.

The good news is, that while popular opposition continues (based on demonstrable misinformation), the science is progressing in the background and farmers are adopting GM crops because of their obvious benefits. Farmers are not stupid, nor are they being manipulated. They buy GM seeds because it is to their advantage to do so.

In other words, let the “no-GMO” crowd croak and even boycott, if it makes them feel better.  In the meantime agricultural products will continue to evolve and improve, agriculture the world over will continue to become more efficient, millions who were hungry will be fed, and eventually the deniers will go the way of Ned Lud’s followers.

Animal’s Daily Hot Peppers News

Apparently eating chili peppers cuts your risk of heart disease.  If that’s true, I’ll live forever.  Then again they say every slice of bacon you eat takes a minute off your life; if that was true I’d have died in 1794.  Excerpt:

For many years, chili has been hailed for its therapeutic properties, and now researchers have found that eating chili peppers regularly can cut the risk of death from heart disease and stroke.
Carried out in Italy, where chili is a common ingredient, the study compared the risk of death among 23,000 people, some of whom ate chili and some of whom didn’t.

Participants’ health status and eating habits were monitored over eight years, and researchers found that the risk of dying from a heart attack was 40% lower among those eating chili peppers at least four times per week.

Death from stroke was more than halved, according to results published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“An interesting fact is that protection from mortality risk was independent of the type of diet people followed,” said study lead author Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute (Neuromed).

In other words, someone can follow the healthy Mediterranean diet, someone else can eat less healthily, but for all of them chili pepper has a protective effect,” she said.

That’s good news!

I have a very high tolerance for hot foods, and I regularly test the limits of that tolerance.  I make an awesome chili, although I have to tone it down some for the family; my unadulterated version is known as “Animal’s Thermonuclear Bowel-Basher Chili.”  I love hot food – Mexican, Thai, Indian, you name it.  Spicy food should make your head sweat.

I’ve been fortunate here; plenty of guys lose their tolerance for spicy food as they approach sixty.  But while some people can be said to have cast-iron stomachs, I’ve always been even more fortunate than that; my entire alimentary canal is 316 stainless.

But to find out that hot peppers are even health-enhancing?

Bring on the habaneros!

Animal’s Daily Golden Rice News

Check this out:  We Pioneered a Technology to Save Millions of Poor Children, But a Worldwide Smear Campaign Has Blocked It.  Read that as:  “A bunch of well-meaning but ill-informed knuckleheads are responsible for the deaths of thousands of children.”  Excerpt:

Food: everybody needs it, and many are fortunate enough to have enough, even too much of it. Food is a highly emotional subject on every continent and in every culture. For a healthy life our food has to provide energy, as well as, in very small amounts, minerals and vitamins. A varied diet, easily achieved and common in industrialised countries, provides everything. 

But poor people in countries where rice is grown often eat little else. White rice only provides energy: no minerals or vitamins. And the lack of one of the vitamins, vitamin A, is responsible for killing around 4,500 poor children every day. Lack of vitamin A is the biggest killer of children, and also the main cause of irreversible childhood blindness. 

Our project is about fixing this one dietary deficiency – vitamin A – in this one crop – rice – for this one group of people.  It is a huge group though: half of the world’s population live by eating a lot of rice every day. Two of us (PB & IP) figured out how to make rice produce a source of vitamin A, and the rice becomes a golden color instead of white. The source is beta-carotene, which the human body converts to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is what makes carrots orange. Our rice is called “Golden Rice.”

Here’s the frustrating bit:

The anti-GMO crop campaigns, and especially anti-Golden Rice campaigns, have been extraordinarily effective. If so much regulation by governments is required, surely there must be something to be suspicious about: ‘There is no smoke without fire’. The suspicion pervades research institutions and universities, the publishers of scientific journals and The World Health Organisation, and UNICEF: even the most scientifically literate are fearful of entanglement in activist-stoked public controversy.

The equivalent of 13 jumbo jets full of children crashes into the ground every day and kills them all, because of VAD. Yet the solution of Golden Rice, developed by national scientists in the counties where (Vitamin A deficiency) VAD is endemic, is ignored because of fear of controversy, and because poor children’s deaths can be ignored without controversy.

The entire anti-GMO hysteria is as one with anti-vaxxers and chemtrails kooks – it has no basis in fact.

The fact is, humans have been genetically modifying food crops for thousands of years; only the techniques have changed, from selective breeding and hybridization to direct genetic editing.  The fact is, golden rice has been proven safe.  The fact is, thousands would lead better-fed, healthier and happier lives if the idiot anti-GMO nuts in the WHO and UNICEF would just back the hell off.

But hey.  These are just poor brown people, right?  Isn’t that the argument the left uses to make proponents of free markets look heartless?  You know, the kind of free market economies that develop innovative products like golden rice?

Animal’s Daily Former Vegan News

Make sure to check out Part Five of my History of Bolt Guns series over at Glibertarians!

A nut from Finland has become marginally less nutty.  She still has a long ways to go.  Excerpt:

Early last year, Virpi Mikkonen was alarmed by the appearance of a rash on her face.

There were other problems: a bout of flu that was hard to shift; crumbling nails; feeling low; and, most worrying, her periods stopped. A blood test revealed her follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels had sky-rocketed to the level at which women hit the menopause. Virpi was 37 and having hot flushes.

‘I thought, what’s wrong with me? I am healthy, I exercise,’ Virpi says. ‘I was really scared.’

At the time, Virpi believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all diets: gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, meat-free, refined sugar-free. And what’s more, she’d built a career inspiring others to eat it, too.

But then this happened:

‘I felt I had run out of fuel, totally,’ she says. ‘I was empty.’ She is now particularly fond of bone broth, a bone stock she has as a hot drink or adds to stews and soups. She’s also eating eggs, which is a major departure because she used to refer to them as ‘miscarriages of chickens’.

The effects have been dramatic. ‘It’s amazing. I feel energetic, motivated. I’m sleeping better, the hot flushes and aching in my body have stopped.’ Best of all, her periods have returned. She was so relieved she danced round her flat. ‘I thought, OK, now I am back on track.’

Here’s the funny bit:

Virpi has yet to tell her followers the whole story, though recently posted about yin deficiency and ‘burn-out’. Her reluctance is more out of wanting to find the right time to bare her heart than fear of receiving irate messages, but she admits: ‘Vegans can be really judgmental.’

First up:  There’s no such thing as “yin deficiency.”  That’s utter horseshit, and if you read the entire article – do NOT read the comments if you value your blood pressure – you’ll see she believes in all manner of New Age-y horseshit.

But she’s dead right about “vegans” being judgemental.  If she hasn’t received outright threats on her life or well-being, I’d be pretty damn surprised.  The “ethical vegan” community contains plenty of folks who are not just judgemental, they’re outright fanatics.  Their worst examples are the nuts of the so-called Animal Liberation Front, who have been classed as a domestic terror group.  Fortunately there aren’t very many of them.

Were I to give Ms. Mikkonen any advice, it would be “eat whatever you see fit and shut up about it.”  But apparently she’s making a good living peddling New Age-y horseshit.  And, presumably, it’s worth whatever heat she’s taking for being a “vegan” apostate.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Güten Buckel-Tag!

Like a good cheeseburger?  Lasagna?  Wine and cheese?  Any of the various foods that include or use cheese in any of its many and varied forms?

Well, here’s one you may not have heard of:  Moose cheese.  Yes, really.  Excerpt:

Moose-milking can’t be easy. Perhaps that’s why moose milk cheese can set a buyer back as much as $500 per pound, making it one of the most expensive cheeses in the world (it’s still not nearly as expensive as pule, a donkey milk cheese from Serbia). But for those with a druthers for dairy, The Elk House (Europeans call their moose “elk”) in Bjurholm, Sweden, makes four varieties of the pricey product, all thanks to three moose sisters.

The House farm’s three milk-producing mavens—Gullan, Haelga, and Juno—lactate only from May through the end of September. Coaxing the five liters of milk from each moose per day takes a delicate hand and calm demeanor, which leads to the product’s prestige and price. The Johanssons, who own the farm, make four varieties from the high-protein milk: soft, white mold cheese (similar to Camembert), creamy blue cheese, dried blue cheese, and feta. The latter, which gets preserved in a neutral vegetable oil, is the Elk House’s bestseller.

Wow.  Just… wow.

Actually, being open to most culinary adventures (and having the beltline to prove it) I’d be open to trying moose cheese.  I’ve had goat cheese and found it unappealing.  But moose cheese is enough different that I’d be willing to have a go, especially since the price it commands seems to indicate that demand well outstrips supply; that’s usually a sign that consumers find that product appealing.

Unavailable for comment.

Still.  Moose (or, as they are known in Europe, elk) are big, powerful and frequently fractious animals.  With their long legs and heavy splayed hooves, they can deliver a powerful kick.  And milking a big quadruped puts the milker in the ideal position to get kicked.  One wonders where the Johanssons found three moose (elk) cows tame enough for the job.

Whatever the story, I’m glad that the price of the product evidently makes their labors worthwhile.