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Eat To Live: Get used to 'Frankenfood'

By
JULIA WATSON, UPI Food Writer

However much opponents of "Frankenfood" (the gleeful nickname for genetically altered foods) may wish to eliminate Genetically Modified foodstuffs once and for all, it becomes increasingly clear that their control of the battle is slowly seeping away.

A consultant at the International Rice Research Institute last week said that with the struggle in Asia to feed a growing population, opposition to GMO rice was likely to dissipate by the end of this decade.

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Gurdev Singh Khush, a consultant at the IRRI, believes its course has been set by the example of GMO corn, which, despite strenuous opposition from Greenpeace, was passed for commercial growth in the Philippines in 2002.

A report commissioned by Agricultural Biotechnology Europe published at the end of September asserted the European Union's strongly anti-GM position was also unsustainable.

In Britain, Iceland and the Co-Op, two of the nation's leading supermarket chains, refuse to stock any GM foodstuffs, while other supermarkets have special shelves dedicated to guaranteed non-GM products. They also attempt to keep GM ingredients as absent from their merchandise as they can.

This is a difficult act given that GM soymeal and soy oil is widely used in animal feed. An anti-GM stance is even more difficult to hold in Europe when it comes to dairy products.

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A number of GM-derived enzymes are used in bakery, dairy and other foodstuffs without the knowledge of consumers because they are not, so far, required to be named on labels as they have not been officially defined as additives.

In the United States, mandatory labeling of genetically engineered ingredients is not required, unlike in the EU, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand, among others. Opponents of GM foods state that with some exceptions, companies are not even required under current Food and Drug Administration regulations to notify the agency they are bringing new genetically engineered products to the market.

Since genetically engineered soy and corn are widely used in many processed foods in the United States, it has been estimated that over 70 percent of such foods sold in the United States and Canada contain genetically engineered ingredients.

The EU has taken a strong anti-GM position from the beginning. But already it is beginning to give way, having passed approval for oilseed, GM maize and one type of soybean.

The problem, as with all big-business enterprises, is rising costs. GM-free ingredients are becoming increasingly uncompetitive in price, adding as much as 16 percent to basic costs.

The ABE report claims producers of margarine will fare the worst, paying an extra 85 million euros to remain non-GM. About 75 percent of EU margarine production is believed to be GM-free.

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The more the growth of soybeans, which supply so many derivatives, is turned over to GM production, the less the supply of non-GM soybeans. Brazil is the latest nation to begin planting GM soy, with 23 percent of total production in 2004 being genetically modified.

This has a dramatic affect on the price of meat. Feeding cattle and pigs with GM soymeal can be as much as 13 percent cheaper than feeding them with non-GM soymeal. And the price difference is expected to rise as high as 25 percent in the next three years, according to the report.

The diet of the First World has become so meat-centered, it is worth remembering the nourishing place in Mediterranean diets and in Third World countries of legumes like lentils, dried pulses and beans. These are cheap to buy and to cook and so far appear to have slipped under the radar of GM developers.

Try this sustaining winter chickpea dish from India, good with a green salad and a bowl of non-genetically modified rice.

Chana dal masaledar

Serves 6

-- 8 ounces dried chickpeas

-- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

-- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

-- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

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-- 1 tablespoon tomato paste

-- 1 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

-- 2 teaspoons garam masala

-- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

-- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

-- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or less

-- juice half a lemon

-- salt to taste

-- small handful fresh coriander, finely chopped

-- Soak chickpeas in water to cover overnight.

-- Drain and bring slowly to a boil with fresh water to cover.

-- Skim off scum and simmer till soft, about 1 hour, then turn off heat and leave.

-- In a sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium flame and add the cumin seeds. As soon as they bounce, add the onion and fry, stirring till brown.

-- Lower heat and add the coriander, garam masala, garlic and ginger, and stir till the garlic softens.

-- Add the tomato paste, stirring, then reserving two cups of chickpea water, add the drained chickpeas and the cayenne. Add salt to taste, cover and simmer half an hour.

-- Add the lemon juice, and fresh coriander to garnish, and serve.

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