Genetically Modified Food: Should You Be Afraid?

Fish & Fennel

A few months ago I was really excited about discovering frozen edamame (soy beans) in my local supermarket. So I wrote a blog post about my new love.

As you do.

What really surprised me was the amount of people leaving comments and emails warning that edamame were soy beans which are GM. Something I hadn’t even thought of.

Anyway after doing some investigation, (aka reading the label!) I realised my edamame were from China. So probably were GM. So I decided to stop buying them and made a mental note to write a followup blog post about my thoughts on genetic modification of food…

So here we are!

My Experience with GM Foods

Back when I was studying Food Science in the 90s, ‘Biotechnology’ was a relatively new field. I found it fascinating and elected to take a subject on Food Biotechnology in my final year of university.

So what did I learn?

Firstly that there’s potential for genetic modification to be helpful.

For example, enabling bacteria to produce the ‘rennet’ required for some cheese making rather than getting it from the traditional source of calves stomachs.

But there was also a lot of potential for harm.

To my mind there are 3 main aspects to this…

1. The Testing.
When we go inserting genetic material from one species into another, we’re doing something that cannot happen in nature. The effects can be difficult to predict.

So rigorous testing is really critical to ensuring no unwanted side effects. Which is relatively easy in a tank of bacteria but more difficult when we’re talking about releasing or even trialling GM crops out in nature.

2. The Politics.
The best way to explain this is with an example. Lets look at the humble soy bean.

The genetic manipulation with soy was to make soybeans resistant to a particular herbicide, namely Round-Up.

The ‘benefit’ here is that weeds can easily be controlled in a soy crop by spraying with said herbicide.

Then farmers have to buy their seeds from the same company that sells them the Round-Up.

And they can’t ‘save’ the seeds to use for next years crop. They must buy fresh seeds (and herbicide) every year from the one company and no one else. Sounds like a brilliant marketing strategy to me.

3. Biodiversity.
If everyone is growing genetically identical crops, regardless of whether they’re genetically modified or not, all our proverbial eggs are in the one basket.

Seems a risky move to me.

So Am I Afraid of GM Foods?

Afraid? No. Wary? yes. Pro-labelling? Absolutely.

And do I personally choose to eat GM foods? Yes and No. It depends.

I’m happy to eat parmesan made with GM rennet but ‘Round-Up-Ready Soybeans?’ No thank you Monsanto. I’d rather have frozen Australian broad beans.

What About You?

How do you feel about GM foods?
I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Fish & Fennel

Double Fennel Fish

I have a goal to eat fish at least once a week for dinner this year. And while my Irishman is still pretty fish-phobic, I’ve really been enjoying the change. This ‘double fennel’ dish with fennel seeds as a crust and then fresh fennel as a salad has been one of my favourites this year. I should mention the idea to grind fennel seeds and use them on fish came from a David Tanis recipe I made for the Jules & David Project.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
450g (1lb) fish fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice + 1 lemon, halved
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked

1. Grind fennel seeds with a spice or coffee grinder. Or bash with a mortar and pestle. Rub fish with a little oil on both sides and sprinkle over ground fennel and lots of sea salt and pepper.

2. Heat a frying pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer on a medium high heat. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on each side or until just cooked through and golden on the outsides.

3. While the fish is cooking combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a salad bowl with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season.

4. Trim and discard fennel stalks then finely slice the bulbs using a mandoline or sharp knife. Toss sliced fennel and parsley leaves in the dressing.

5. Serve fish hot with the fennel salad and half a lemon on the side.

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Variations

carnivore – replace fish with pork chops or chicken thigh fillets and adjust the cooking time as needed.

vegetarian – serve fennel salad with marinated feta and roast almonds.

vegan – toss cooked chickpeas or lentils in with the salad and serve with a tahini sauce drizzled over (2 tablespoons each tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and water).

more veg – toss any crunchy salad veg in such as red capsicum (bell peppers), grated carrot, grated beets, sliced snow peas.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss torn rustic sourdough in with the salad or serve with roast or pan fried potatoes or home made fries.

no fennel seeds – just skip it or try coriander or cumin seeds instead. Or serve cooked fish with sumac sprinkled over.

no fennel – my fave alternative is white cabbage or Brussels sprouts but you could use finely sliced snow peas or shaved zucchini.

And if you’re following the Jules & David Project, the latest installment is called menu fifteen: THE BEAN SOUP LUNCH

Big love,
Jules x

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