Food Out Loud: GMO Questions and Answers

The use of GMOs has been a hotbed issue in the U.S. for many decades and there are strong concerns happening on both sides of the conversation. For me historically, I have been against GMOs , I have taking part in protests and advocated against the spread of GMOs in our food ecosystem. But, working here at Foodable, I am often questioned on why I feel they way I do. Sometimes I simply do not have all the answers.  I realized that when it came to GMOs I was in a bit of an echo chamber, only talking to people who were on my side of the argument. So I started to think about what I didn’t know.

One of the biggest arguments for GMOs is the idea that we need them to feed a growing population. I realized that I don't understand enough about what it takes to feed the world, let alone what it will take to feed future generations. I also did not know exactly what was considered a GMO and how present they are in the food we eat every day.

With that in mind,  I decided that I wanted to try to find someone who was an advocate of GMOs to ask them some of the basic questions that I just simply do not have the answers to.

In this episode, I speak with Leia Flure, a GMO advocate who writes for a site called “GMO Answers.” Leia is a registered dietitian based in Champaign, Illinois. She is also an educator, has a psychology and a nutritional science degree, and is a mother - so she has to truly believe that GMOs are safe and useful. And that was what I was looking for. Someone who did not have a horse in the game, someone who did their own research and came to their own conclusions based on her own research and education. She has decided to write for “GMO Answers,” which is a partially funded by GMO companies, but her conclusions are her own.

If there is a takeaway for me from this discussion it is that we may have to separate the science from the practices of some of these companies. We all know the case of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto and how that turned out. Of course, this validates a lot of my viewpoints on GMOs and the damage they can cause to people and the environment. So does the bad really outweigh the good?

This podcast may upset some hardcore proponents against GMOs and I get it, I didn't dig in and barrage my guest with rage against some of the points that I don't necessarily agree because it’s important to keep an open dialogue. But rest assured this is not a topic that I am done exploring because it is not a topic that we have come to final conclusions on. So please shoot me an email or a tweet and let me know what questions you have and I will continue this conversation.

Research by:

Nathan Mikita

Nathan Mikita

Director of New Media/Producer


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Monsanto-Backed Start-Up Will Soon Produce First Gene-Edited Fruit

Monsanto-Backed Start-Up Will Soon Produce First Gene-Edited Fruit

Agriculture giant Monsanto has just invested $125 million into gene-editing startup Pairwise.

The alliance may allow for Monsanto to introduce the first produce made with the blockbuster gene-editing tool, CRISPR. The CRISPR tool allows scientists to target specific problem areas within the genome of a living thing and tweak the DNA to adjust the taste, shelf life, and other attributes of the product.

Monsanto has long been criticized for its role in popularizing genetically modified organisms and for being one of a handful of companies that produced "Agent Orange," a carcinogenic herbicide.

However, most scientists agree that GMOs are safe to eat and that they have played a significant role in helping farmers grow more food on less land. Scientists are already using CRISPR to edit the genes of plants and animals to make them healthier and more resistant to heat and disease.

Monsanto and Pairwise aim to get some of the first fruits and vegetables made with CRISPR on grocery-store shelves within 5 to 10 years.

"Crispr is far and away technically more efficient and more effective at doing the kinds of things we want," Bob Reiter, Monsanto's global vice president of research and development strategy, told Business Insider.

It is partially due to CRISPR's accuracy that the US Department of Agriculture has chosen not to regulate close to a dozen crops edited with CRISPR as GMOs. Instead, the crops have essentially been given a green light, meaning companies can move forward with development.

Read more about this story at “Business Insider.

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How The Organic Coup is Cleaning Fast Food, One Chicken at a Time

While some consumers may believe fast food is a fast track to unhealthy eating, The Organic Coup hatched a new idea when it comes to chicken. This brand became the first USDA certified organic fast food restaurant, confirmed by their certifying agency, CCOF.

"We were shocked to find out we were first," founder Erica Welton said.

This concept was inspired by the team's years of working at Costco Wholesale, and the push for social change in foodservice became the foundation of the business. The name began as a typo for the word "coop," but "coup" was also fitting: coup is defined as a takeover, and that's exactly what this restaurant is doing — taking over the fast food industry with a new, organic attitude, proving that fast food has the potential to be good food.

"We want to serve the highest-quality product at a fair price," Welton said. "I'm also a mom of two young boys. [I'm] very passionate about what goes into my kids' food. Chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and as a food buyer for Costco, learning more and more about what is getting put into our food — it was scary."

The Menu

Organic efforts could become complex, but The Organic Coup's operation is simple.

"We are not going to be a restaurant that has 50 items on the menu," Welton said.

The Coup Signature Sandwich is made up of chicken sourced locally from Mary's Free Range Organic Air-Chilled Chicken. The breasts are soaked in buttermilk, hand-breaded, and fried in coconut oil — honestly, the most expensive oil they could choose, but it is low in cholesterol and high in vitamin A. The menu also consists of a wrap and a bowl, and all buns are toasted and wraps are steamed to order. 

The restaurant also offers unique sauces, from spicy BBQ ranch, sesame ginger, mustard Vinaigrette, and more. Guests with a sweet tooth can also nibble on their organic popcorn, drizzled in caramel and with either white or dark chocolate. 

The Philosophy

More than about making fast food good food, The Organic Coup is about being good to the environment, too. Their chicken is air-chilled, a tactic used in Europe and Canada. Unlike the water chlorine bath method used in the United States, air-chilled facilities save 30,000 gallons of water every day.

The tables at the restaurant also have a touch of sustainability, as they are made from reclaimed wood (and were even built by Welton's father. All the restaurant's cleaning supplies and pest control are also organic certified. And to continue the education of their staff, The Organic Coup has a wall dedicated to going back to the basics, emphasizing the importance of non-GMO and hormone use.

"You know, I think it's very difficult to cheat Mother Nature, and in the end, there is always a price to pay. To disrupt such an old mentality on the way food was being brought to people just seemed like a lot of fun," Welton said.

Power to the chicken! Want to learn more about how this restaurant is rewriting fast food? Watch the full episode now.

Texas Chef Rory Schepisi Chimes In On GMO and Cloned Meat

Earlier last year, headlines began appearing reporting on the emergence of genetically modified meat and seafood. The modification process entails species having DNA material manipulated in order to speed up their maturation process, thereby lessening the time needed to raise each animal before slaughter. The theory is that this quicker raising time period would have less of an environmental impact as well as a more immediate economic return for the farmer.

In addition to the introduction of genetically modified meat, news also broke that China was establishing a government sponsored “cloning park” set to open early this year with the lofty goal of eventually creating over a million cow embryos to be harvested for eventual meat production. These cloned animals can be selected based on beneficial features, making them attractive to farmers seeking a higher level of security and reliability. The ethics of this move have naturally been hotly debated.

Rory Schepisi, Chef of Boot Hill Saloon and Grill, Texas

“Being a steakhouse owner and chef, you would think I would have a biased opinion about cloned and genetically engineered meat. To be honest, if I could guarantee the exact same quality, texture, marbling, and flavor of my cuts of beef, I would hands down be an advocate for it.  Till then CAB [Certified Angus Beef] is the closest I can achieve to those expectations. 

When it comes to chicken anything would be better than the ‘roid injected, Godzilla breasts that are being produced today. Only organic chicken is up to par for quality.”

So how do other chefs feel about these future possibilities? Read More