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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vegan Mofo Day 27: Thanksgiving and GMO foods

Thanksgiving was full of fantastic food and interesting conversation topics. I had plenty to eat, and eat I did. I am still full. I contributed roasted garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry apricot chutney, I brought a pasta salad just for me, and my family set aside several vegetable dishes that were carefully prepared vegan and gluten free. I brought two pies. My Pecan Pie stole the show and was a great conversation piece.

My grandma and I both love pecan pie. I loved its glucose busting sweetness and buttery rich filling - and the way that caramel goodness seeped into the crust was amazing. Now I'm not quite so much of a sweet tooth, but this was a fun dish to try to make healthier (and vegan). With a little creativity, I found that it was completely possible to ditch the butter, eggs, and best of all, the corn syrup! It held up very well to being sliced, and still had that buttery goodness thanks to a little coconut oil. I would post the recipe, but I have to save something for a book and restaurant :)

The lack of corn syrup in the pie got us on the topic of genetically modified foods, factory farming, and the "Food Safety" bill that is on the table, threatening to jeopardize organic farmers and ban seed saving. I need to read up more on the topic, but my grandmother is planning on giving our state senators an earful. Go Grandma!

"We're Americans! We don't plan; we do!" Colonel Custer, Night at the Museum 2

I don't rant very often on this blog, but sometimes it's warranted.

Genetically modified foods can elevate allergic responses and induce food intolerance (particularly gastrointestinal symptoms) (1*). Genetic modification can increase the levels of allergy causing proteins and introduce new allergens. Splicing Brazil Nut genes into corn was fortunately discontinued because of the severe risk to people with tree nut allergies (2). There really hasn't been substantial research over the 20 plus years needed to determine how a modified crop will impact the people consuming it and the environment around it, but we charge ahead regardless, embracing a crop that is more resistant to pests and disease.

I find it very frightening that one of my local food co-ops no longer carried corn because they couldn't find any farms that were reliably non-GMO. Think of what that means for all of the products that contain corn! I don't mean just the product with "corn" listed in the ingredients. I mean the products that have citric acid, liqueurs, maltodextrin, glucose, fructose, "natural" flavors and colors, vanilla extracts, baking powder, and starches. All of those come guessed it...corn! It's in nearly everything! (For more hidden sources of corn, click here). And let's not stop there. What do you think is being fed to livestock and farmed fish? Yes, they feed farmed fish corn and soy - not a species appropriate diet. Corn and soy are not species appropriate for cows, sheep, and pigs, who are all meant to be pasture fed on grass. That's right, pigs aren't meant to eat buckets of food waste "enriched" with genetically modified soy and corn. They are meant to feast on grass, leafy greens, insects, and roots. The overly complex diet fed to farm animals causes digestive problems and lowered immunity meaning more methane and toxic build up for our ozone and more antibiotics for the animals.

Being allergic to corn gives me an easy out for not consuming it, but even I have problems avoiding products that contain trace amounts. Corn isn't the only "product" that is nearly completely GMO these days. Soy is about 90% GMO (with more contaminated GMO) and canola oil is another big one.

Genetic modification isn't just an issue restricted to plants. Recently, a push to approve GMO Salmon was under way. I'm frightened for what this may mean for our ecosystem. GMO Salmon grow to what we would consider a mature weight in under 18 months. Normal maturation occurs at 3 years in the wild. These salmon are more aggressive and consume more, which most likely would mean very bad things for our ecosystem if they were to be released or let out of their pens. For more on this topic, click here. We have over fished our waters and that is being used as an excuse to produce freaks of nature instead of cutting back on our animal consumption. Bluefin tuna is now predicted to be extinct by 2012 (for an article on overfishing, click here). Fish farms are known for fairly unreliable containment systems - imagine how much we could speed up the extinction of natural species of fish by letting these magnificent examples of our need to control everything around us out in the open ocean?

Ain't science grand?

*While I most certainly do not condone the use of animals in medical testing, I will be citing some articles that used this form of research.


1. "A WZS minitature swine food hypersensitivity model orally induced by soybean
beta-conglycinin." Zhonghua Yu Fang Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2009 Sep;43(9):776-80

2. Julie A. Nordlee, "Identification of Brazil-Nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans," New
England Journal of Medicine, 334 (1996):688-692.


  1. no recipe? what a tease! oh well, i can handle it. :-)

  2. ps: i agree with you about the corn but i have to keep quiet about it since my grandfather was a corn farmer. although i don't think his was GMO.

  3. I'd rather not have a third eyeball.

  4. I'd love to see a recipe for the pie.

    The whole GMO thing is horrible and scary.