Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Frankenfood

I just finished reading an article from Fortune about the problems plaguing Big Food.  The article, “Special Report: The war on big food” (https://fortune.com/2015/05/21/the-war-on-big-food/) was interesting but I think it missed something.  The author clearly did his research and spoke with quite a few food company executives.  They can’t seem to understand why their mass-produced, mass-marketed, smartly packaged, and heavily advertised brands aren’t selling the way they used to.  They blame the fringe elements who rail against GMOs, who scream for dolphin-safe tuna, and who want their chickens to run free.  They point to how cost effective their strategies are and how slick and efficient their business processes are, producing ever more food to feed a hungry world.  They don’t understand why consumers buy organic, buy from small producers, or… *gasp*… buy fresh.

What they really need to do is look in the mirror.  The reality is… their food tastes like crap.

Think about the most bland, tasteless thing you can eat.  How about a bologna and cheese sandwich on white bread?  I’ll even throw on some cheap yellow mustard.  Crap, right?  No one wants the bologna that they sell at the deli counter.  And why is cheese wrapped by the individual slice?  Hell, it’s not even real cheese.  It’s a “cheese product” that tastes more like plastic than cheese.  And mass-produced white bread might as well be made of sawdust.  Yellow mustard is mustard in name only and probably has more bright yellow coloring than actual mustard in it.


Now, imagine thick slices of bread fresh from a local bakery, mortadella from your local Italian market sliced thin and piled high, maybe some fontina or gouda, and a hearty, whole grain mustard.  Cripes, just writing that is making my mouth water.  This is the food you *could* have.  The crappy sandwich is the one that Big Food wants you to eat.  Is that really a choice?

UPDATE:  I got into an argument over GMOs and the person I was energetically disagreeing with pulled out the one line that pro-GMO folks use all the time and that irks the shit out of me...  "GMOs are no different than selective breeding.  Humans have been doing this for thousands of years!"

I call bullshit.

Claiming any relationship between what scientists are doing now and what Gregor Mendel was doing with peas is as disingenuous as it is condescending.  Saving the seeds from the tallest or fastest growing plant or the one with the prettiest flowers is not adding DNA from brazil nuts to corn to add resistance to something or other.  Crossing various strains of tomatoes to create hybrids is not the same as snipping DNA from completely unrelated species in the hopes of cooking up something new.  Lord Tweedmouth didn't create Golden Retrievers by adding deer DNA (or whatever) to an existing dog breed.  He carefully bred together existing dog breeds and slowly created the characteristics that he wanted in his hunting dogs.

There are many good arguments to be made for GMOs.  It may very well be that GMOs are going to be necessary to feed the exploding human population.  They may be perfectly safe to eat.  But don't try to rationalize the frankenfood aspects of how these new variants are created by trying to claim that this is the same as selective cross-breeding.