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Pro-GMO Chocolate Brand Launches FREE First Batch To Educate Consumers On GMO Foods

GMO (genetically modified) foods get a lot of bad rap in today’s society. Despite a breadth of scientific knowledge debunking claims to the contrary, many feel that they are unsafe and unhealthy.

To be fair, GMO foods also get their reputation from companies like Monsanto that have used them for unethical reasons. However, there’s plenty of good that GMO foods can bring to the world, and a new chocolate brand is hoping to educate consumers about that side of the story.

Photo courtesy of Ethos Chocolate

Called Ethos Chocolate, this brand was developed by pro-GMO farmer coalition A Fresh Look to help showcase how GMO foods have already been a benefit to society. Their four introductory brands each involve a key crop whose future has been altered or saved through genetic engineering.

Examples include “The Survivor,” which features papaya, a fruit that was all but wiped out in Hawaii after a ring spot virus spread across the archipelago. Genetic engineering variants resistant to the virus was key in restoring the crop back to sustainable levels.

There’s also “The Hero,” which utilizes oranges, a crop facing a similar issue today from citrus greening disease. Scientists are working hard to develop an orange that inherently prevents citrus greening from ever taking hold. Apples, which have undergone both natural and genetic modification to prevent browning, also take a major role in “The Trendsetter” bar that Ethos is selling.

One of the big reasons why this product line was developed was because of the issues surrounding chocolate itself. Studies have predicted that climate change and pests could significantly reduce the available land for cacao trees (the source of chocolate) within the next few decades. While not an actual extinction threat, it does put stress on a burgeoning demand for chocolate around the world, and scientists are working on using CRISPR (a gene-editing technique) to help combat against potential viral and fungal diseases as well as climate change.

It’s definitely going to be difficult for Ethos to get started as a brand, since most consumers are against anything to do with GMO Foods. To help, the chocolatiers are giving out their first limited batch of product for free as a Valentine’s Day gift. If you fill out a form on the Ethos website by February 10th (or before supplies run out), a special box of the chocolates will be sent to whoever you want (including yourself) this Valentine’s Day.

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Food Policy Grocery Packaged Food

The FDA Was Just Petitioned To Ban Non-GMO Labeling

The question of genetically engineered foods, non-GMO branding, and their labeling was thought to have been put to bed a couple of years ago. Congress passed a law requiring the labeling of “GMO foods,” which will likely need to display a BE or “bioengineered” label by 2020. Should be all said and done, right?

While that was the case initially, a new citizen’s petition to the FDA has opened up that can of worms once again. This time, folks are asking for non-GMO labels to be banned on food.

fdaPhoto: Foodbeast // Peter Pham

For those wondering, non-GMO labels like the one above are done by “third party verifiers” and NOT by the FDA. The government has no qualms with these right now, but that may change based on the new petition filed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

According to Food Dive, ITIF’s petition claims that these non-GMO labels are “false and misleading” because they make a product appear healthier than those that contain bioengineered/GMO ingredients. Scientifically, this has been proven time and time again to not be the case, so ITIF feels that the non-GMO markings construe misbranding, making them illegal under FDA jurisdiction.

ITIF may have scientific sounding in their argument, but experts do not expect the FDA to accept their petition. The food industry has backed companies like the non-GMO project that create these label markings and claims, which weakens their case. Furthermore, one could argue that the phrase “non-GMO” is permissible under the free speech clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Unless the FDA deems that to be “commercial speech” that has less protections, the phrase would be legal.

By law, the FDA has 180 days to respond to the petitioners and decide whether or not to make such a bold claim when it comes to non-GMO labeling. If they accept the petition, it would likely come with a regulation or new law from Congress that would ban the phrase “non-GMO” and similar verbages, a huge blow to advocates of those who want consumers to know if their foods contain genetically engineered ingredients or not.

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Animals News Now Trending Science Technology

Chinese Scientists Use CRISPR Gene Editing To Produce Low-Fat Pigs

Each year, pig farmers in China unfortunately lose millions of piglets due to cold weather. Pigs lack a gene that allows them to regulate their body temperature the same way humans do, and thus, the cold weather can prove fatal to young piglets. Fortunately, Chinese scientists have been able to use CRISPR, a gene-editing technology, to develop low-fat pigs that can take the cold and are healthier for us to consume as well.

low-fat pigs

A paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal describes how the pigs use their new genetic properties to burn fat in cold weather to stay warm. By doing this, the animals can have up to 24% less body fat, saving farmers the lives of millions of piglets while not having to spend millions on heating and feeding costs for their livestock.

The researchers were able to give the pigs these new properties through direct gene editing. They used CRISPR to edit a mouse version of the heat-regulating gene into pig cells, and were able to produce a dozen male pigs that could keep themselves warm. The pigs were reportedly healthy and normal throughout the research, and one even produced healthy offspring.

In terms of flavor, the scientists told NPR that they don’t think the gene editing will cause a change in how the pigs taste, and could actually increase consumer preference. “People like to eat the pork with less fat but higher lean meat,” one of the researchers said.

All of this means that the low-fat pigs will be cheaper to produce, have a higher yield since less will die to the cold, be healthier, and still taste delicious. It’s unlikely, due to negative perception of GMOs, that meat from these genetically altered pigs will ever make it to the USA. However many other parts of the world, especially China, will be able to benefit from the lower costs and increased accessibility the raising of these pigs will provide.

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News Science Technology

Meet The Opal Apple: A Non-GMO Apple That Doesn’t Brown

At the beginning of this year, a GMO fruit called the Arctic Apple hit some grocery stores in the Midwest. The apple was genetically altered to prevent it from going brown, a technology meant to help reduce apple waste and increase consumer appeal. However, the Arctic Apple may be an unnecessary innovation, as a non-GMO non-browning apple has already been cultivated and is in stores.

non-gmo non-browning apple

Photo courtesy of FirstFruits Marketing

This apple is called the Opal apple, and it’s a naturally-bred variety that has several advantages to the Arctic. The Opal is currently distributed and sold by FirstFruits Marketing, a grower-owned collective in Washington. General manager Chuck Zeutenhorst and marketing partner Adam Brady told Foodbeast that the Opal apple is a natural cross between Topaz and Golden Delicious apples that contains less of the gene that causes apples to go brown.

“The Arctic is just a Golden Delicious apple. The gene has been silenced, more or less, to defeat that browning. But it’s the same flavor profile as a Golden Delicious. Opal isn’t just non-browning, but it also has this amazing flavor profile, where it’s sweet, crunchy, very crisp, a little bit of tang on the end of it. It’s important to be natural, but it sets itself apart in terms of variety as well.”

Not only is the Opal apple non-GMO and more flavorsome, but it also has a larger distribution profile. Zeutenhorst and Brady cited several major retailers across the nation that already carry their naturally non-browning fruit. Sprouts, Raley’s, and Whole Foods were a few major examples.

The Opal apple is originally from the Czech Republic, where it was first conceived in 1999. It was then cultivated by FirstFruits starting in 2010, and this year marks the fifth crop of Opal apples that are in stores. The conventional Opal apple season ranges from November to March, and the organic seasons lasts from October to December. Thus, you should already be able to find organic Opal apples in stores, while the latest batch of conventional fruit should arrive soon.

This non-GMO non-browning apple questions the validity of developing a fruit like the Arctic apple, which consumers don’t prefer due to it’s GMO nature. While genetic modification is important for other crop functions like disease resistance, the Opal apple’s superiority to the Arctic shows that we don’t need to develop genetically engineered food to solve every issue. Sometimes, it’s better to just leave it up to nature.

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Health Now Trending Video

This Video Teaches Everything You NEED To Know About GMO Foods [WATCH]

With genetically modified foods (or GMOs) being such a controversial and hotly debated topic, it was only a matter of time before somebody took all of that information and synthesized it into an understandable and informative video.

That’s what YouTube channel “Kurzgesagt – In A Nutshell” has done in this nine-minute exposé on everything you ever needed to know about GMO foods. The channel aims to use all of the information it has gathered to answer the following question:

“Are GMOs bad for your health? Or is this fear unfounded?”

Over 600 hours of careful research and analysis went into the making of this video, which touches on topics including safety, health, research, ethics, and the future of GMO foods. And in case you want to do all of that research for yourself, the channel did post their entire laundry list of sources in the video’s description for viewing.

I’ve been a strong proponent that ethical GMOs are good and necessary for the planet. As someone deeply concerned with the future of food, I’m glad to see all of this careful research and accurate takes on GMOs made palatable into a straightforward, eye-catching, and well-composed video.

This is definitely the ultimate video guide on everything about GMOs you ever wanted and needed to know, and puts a definitive stamp on the answer to the legitimacy and safety of GMOs.

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Tastemade/Snapchat

6 Facts About GMOs

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have become something of a dirty word in nutritional fields lately, especially with raw and paleo diets preaching a gospel of organic living. While the area of study is relatively recent, there are somethings that are already clear about GMOs—and it’s about more that just what’s going into your body. These spliced crops and livestock have far-reaching impacts on the environmental, personal, and legal well-being of our entire country.

The Genetic Modification Boogie Man

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It’s worth noting that most all food intended for human consumption has been genetically modified at one point or another. This started thousands of years ago with the domestication of crops (wheat and corn) as well as animals (cows and pigs). Through selective breeding/pollination, we’ve been able to create cows that are better at producing milk and apples that don’t taste like a mouthful of garbage disposal scraps.

Most people seem to draw a line when scientists move away from selective pollination into a more scientific procedures like gene splicing. For the purposes of this article, we’re only discussing the side effects of gene spliced GMOs, which have become increasingly more prevalent and appear in 80 percent of our foods.

Poisoned Apples

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In an effort to make GMOs more resilient to weeds and insects, scientists have attempted to engineer plants that can withstand herbicides and pesticides. Essentially, we can use stronger poisons to kill off weeds and insects which should in theory produce bigger harvests. There are two main problems with this in practice:

1) As we spray our plants with more deadly poisons, we are introducing more poisonous foods to the population. Obviously, some of this is absorbed through the plant’s skins, but it also gets into the soil, which could affect the flesh of the plants and the groundwater.

2) Insidious plants and animals are counter-evolving. Just like Jurassic Park, nature finds a way and a sequel: using stronger pesticides kills the weaker members of the species, leaving only the strongest to reproduce. This creates superweeds and superbugs that are also immune to the pesticides, meaning we have to use stronger chemicals, starting the cycle over.

They Mess With Bees!

the-bees

As a subsection of the latter point, the insecticides used on GMOs don’t just affect the undesirable insects eating plants, they also kill the insects that are necessary for the plants survival. You see, unlike you and I, plants don’t have a means of passing their genetic material to each other (i.e. sex). Enter honey bees: nature’s answer to Marvin Gaye. Bees gather nectar from flowering plants, picking up pollen in the process, which they then carry to other plants. This mixes up the genes in the plant world and effectively turns flowers in fruits, which is what makes nature tick. And science still hasn’t found a good alternative for pollination, meaning that the end of bees is essentially the end of agriculture. Dun, dun, DUN!

Dubious Nutrition

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While the increase in GMO foodstuffs has been linked to everything from increased diagnoses of autism to brain cancer, most of the science supporting this has been made on a tenuous basis. Specifically, we can see the correlation, but can’t prove the causality. Also of note, GMO-interest groups have a vested interest in convincing you that their products don’t increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and reproductive disorders. In addition to their well documented lobbying efforts, companies like Monsanto and Pepsico can also launch their own scientific studies, stacking the deck in their favor. They’re co-opting science, ferchrissakes!

Label Suppression

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Photo Credit: Alexis Baden-Mayer

Have you ever wondered why organic foods receive a special label and genetically modified foods don’t? Well, it turns out that a lot of the people producing and using GMOs don’t really want to be associated with terms “GMO” because of the unnatural, mad-scientist-y vibe it gives off. Lobbying groups acting on behalf of GMO and processed foods have even blocked measures from states like California, Colorado and Vermont to require labeling of all GMO foods. But for the time being, organic foods are the ones that have to make the distinction on their label, which is — like a genetically modified donkey — ass backwards.

Farmer Sovereignty

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Farmer sovereignty is a fancy way of saying that a farmer can decide what crops to grow on his or her own farm. How do GMOs impact that independence, you might ask? Large seed sellers like Monsanto own patents on their genetically modified seeds, meaning that you have to buy the seeds from them to grow their plants. If these patented organisms from a GMO farm drift into a non-GMO farm, the company holding the seed patent is allowed to sue the unauthorized grower. This is awful because this drift will occur naturally from honey bee or wind pollination. In case you aren’t aware, farming isn’t exactly a money-making enterprise, making large seed suppliers like something of a reverse Robin Hood—stealing from the poor to overfeed the rich.

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Tastemade/Snapchat

5 Foods Scientists Claimed Cause Cancer, But Don’t

These days, it seems like even smiling causes cancer. Fortunately, there’s no conclusive evidence on that, but so many of our favorite things have been linked to cancer in one way or another, it couldn’t hurt to be cautious.

But science is also quick to revise their analysis, if you take any solace in that. Studies are often conducted to achieve a certain result, or sponsored by someone with a biased agenda. For instance, if I owned Splenda, it would benefit me to sponsor a test on the effects of Nutrasweet — especially if I chose rats that were genetically predisposed to cancer.

As you’ll see examples like the one above aren’t rare… in fact, that’s one of the literal examples below. Including that example, here are six things that the greatest scientific minds (or sometimes, just the uninformed masses) assumed to cause cancer, which were later dispelled as hokum.

1. Aspartame

aspartame

You might know aspartame by a number of names: Nutrasweet, Equal, or simply just “that stuff that ruins my coffee.” But, according to an article written by JW Olney and published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology in 1996, it was also the cause for the rising number of brain tumors between 1975 and 1992. Which is a funny coincidence, because aspartame only became a popular sweetener in diet colas and sugar-free gums starting in 1982.

In case you’re not a scientist or a mathematician, let me break it down for you: aspartame could not have caused tumors before it was commercially available. Also of note is that the rats in the study were exposed to the human equivalent of anywhere between 8 and 2,000 cans of soda daily. If that sounds like your diet, you might have bigger problems than cancer. Yet rumors have persisted, and the American Cancer Society even has a page dedicated to debunking the myth.

2. Genetically Modified Foods

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Photo Credit: Lindsay Eyink

“Genetically Modified” is a very loaded term for a lot of political groups. But, strictly speaking, all food is genetically modified in one way or another—be it through natural selection, horticulture, or the heavy duty gene splicing happening on the mysterious island of Dr. Moreau. But it’s the latter that usually rankles people the most, as genes are inserted into a developing plant to enhance certain traits, creating a Genetically Modified Organism. Which, by the way, I’m still waiting for my freaking dragon.

These GMOs are perceived as unnatural and therefore unhealthy, but so far any link between GMOs and cancer is inconclusive. Molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini even used rats that were genetically predisposed to cancer to try and sway popular opinion before a public vote to include GMO labeling on all non-organic foods. The Séralini Affair, as it’s since been dubbed, is one of the most notorious cases of abused scientific data and poorly constructed research in recent memory.

3. Drinking Cold Water After Meals

cold water

When it comes to linking things to cancer, the motto should be “the more innocuous, the better!” Even something as essential as water could turn into dreaded cancer. It’s like 80% of our cellular composition is out to get us. Fortunately, these people are incompetent boobs and the only time water can cause cancer is when you’re stirring it with a rod of Plutonium-239.

At any rate, this ode to pseudoscience began circulating on the internet in 2006, just in time to terrify your grandmother whose dialup modem you installed a week earlier. It still gets a little play now and then, its proponents arguing that cold water makes fats congeal in your intestines, which, you know, totally causes cancer somehow. Well, rest assured that your insides are better for drinking water at any temperature below scalding.

4. Fluoridated Water

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Water fluoridation is one of the few times that a social service actually did some real freaking, undeniable good for the greater population. By adding a little fluoride to our drinking water, we cut down on the number of cavities in the population by decreasing the wearing away of natural enamel—and all without changing the water’s flavor. But anytime you add anything to anything, people are sure that cancer is lurking just around the corner. Fears were confirmed with a study conducted by the National Toxicology Program in 1990, which found increased incidents of bone tumors in fluoridated rats. Since then, however, the test has been repeated over 50 times and found no link between cancer and fluoridated water. What caused the increase in 1990 study, then? Statistical anomaly. And the fact that the study was conducted in Chernobyl. (That last part is not true.)

5. Cooking with a Microwave

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I mean, if you can’t see it, it’s probably cancer… right? That’s the basic logic underlying this urban legend, either claiming that the microwaves give off excess radiation or add a little nuclear flavor to your microwave burritos. Scientist Hans Hertel tested the theory by locking a bunch of his buddies in a hotel room to eat nothing but vegetables and milk heated in a microwave. Two weeks later he popped his head out of that fart barrel and released the damning info: the men’s blood work exhibited signs of early cancer activity. But this study was done in an unsupervised manner, not published in a scholarly journal, and didn’t prove any conclusive link between their activity and cancer.

Other (respected, less flatulent) scientists maintain that the low-level, non-ionizing power emitted by microwaves just doesn’t have the power to alter anyone’s DNA. Again, the helpful folks at the American Cancer Society has an entire page dedicated to quelling your fears on this non-threatening appliance. The page also covers cell phones, radio waves and full-body security scanners, so crackpots beware.

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Fast Food

Here Is Every Ingredient in Your Favorite Fast Food French Fries

Fries-STK

I’ll never forget my high-school nutrition teacher telling us to be wary of any food that has more than five ingredients. Most fast food fries go far beyond that rule of thumb.

With the help of Grant Imahara, a former Mythbuster, McDonald’s has tried to myth-bust their way into explaining why the McRib looks like a frozen sponge and show that their McNuggets aren’t made from pink slime.

Now they’re explaining why there’s a crazy amount of ingredients in their fries, which I don’t even think was something we wondered about in the first place, but now that you mention it, why are there 19 ingredients in a batch of McDonald’s french fries, and what the hell is in the french fries at some of our other favorite fast food spots?

Maybe we’re just automatically cynical about McDonald’s, but when you look at burger joints like In-N-Out, they keep it simple and don’t have any ingredients that make us question their quality.

The same can’t be said about some of the other top fast food restaurants, as their ingredient lists can get pretty lengthy:

french fry

In-N-Out and Five Guys, two smaller chains that are usually pitted head-to-head in comparisons, make their fries with potatoes, salt, and frying oil. That’s it. They don’t need Dimethylpolysiloxane to make a good french fry. So what the hell is everyone else feeding us? Well, here’s a list of fry ingredients for some of your favorite fast food joints:

Carl’s Jr./Hardees- 23 Ingredients

Carl’s Jr. has 23 ingredients that make up its fries. Grabbed straight from the Carl’s Jr. site, this is what’s in their fries:

Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (may contain one or more of the following: Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Palm Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil), Modified Food Starch, Rice Flour, Dextrin, Salt, Leavening (Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum. FRIED IN: Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid to protect flavor, Dimethylpolysiloxane (as an antifoaming agent)).

McDonald’s- 19 Ingredients

McDonald’s fries are so good, yet we still feel so sketched out by them. Even explained, it doesn’t make me feel better that all this crap is going in my tummy.

Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]*, Citric Acid [Preservative]), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (Maintain Color), Salt. Prepared in Vegetable Oil: Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid added to preserve freshness. Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK.
*Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients

Wendy’s- 14 Ingredients

Wendy’s has that natural-cut action going on right now and while the ingredient list isn’t as long as some of the others, it still has 14 ingredients.

Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following oils: canola, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, corn), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (to maintain natural color). Cooked in Vegetable Oil (soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor [vegetable], citric acid [preservative], dimethylpolysiloxane [anti-foaming agent]). Cooked in the same oil as menu items that contain Wheat, Egg, Milk, and Fish (where available). Seasoned with Sea Salt.

Burger King, Jack in the Box- 13 Ingredients

Burger King’s Satisfries may have flopped, but their classic fries have enough ingredients to make you spend a good 20 minutes on Google trying to figure out what the hell they all are.

Jack in the Box has recently joined the natural-cut family as well. I don’t think anyone really knows what “natural” means in the fast food world, but whatever it is, it requires quite a bit of ingredients.

Burger King:

Potatoes, Soybean Oil or Canola and Palm Oil, Modified Potato Starch, Rice Flour, Potato Dextrin, Salt, Leavening (Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate added to preserve natural color.

Jack in the Box:

Potatoes, Canola and Palm Oil, Modified Food Starch (Potato, Corn, Tapioca), Rice
Flour, Dextrin, Salt, Leavening (Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum. Cooked in Canola Blend Frying Oil.

In-N-Out, Five Guys- 3 Ingredients

Ah, the simplicity. This shouldn’t take long. In-N-Out uses potatoes, salt and cottonseed oil. Same with Five Guys as they just use potatoes, salt and refined peanut oil.

Oh, crap. They have Cajun-style fries too don’t they? Those run up to 11 ingredients.

Potatoes, Refined Peanut Oil, Salt, Cajun Seasoning: Blend of Garlic, Salt, Onion, Paprika, Oregano, White Pepper, Red Pepper, Spice.

I guess those ingredients weren’t that hard to pronounce. In fact, I have all of those in my kitchen. I wonder if we can give them a pass, or nah?

It’s probably no coincidence that the restaurants with more ingredients are all major chains that have a much larger reach than In-N-Out or Five Guys. They might have legitimate reasons for doing so, reasons that might not sound sexy if explained to the public.

In the back of my mind, all these ingredients give me trust issues, but I’ve been brainwashed, and I’d still like an order of fries with my Big Mac.