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The Upside Of GMO

Posted by ggheld 
The Upside Of GMO
May 30, 2017 09:54AM
From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

Meatless, tasty and genetically modified: a healthy debate
By Tara DugganMay 29, 2017 Updated: May 29, 2017 8:57pm

The 20th century veggie burger was a beige patty packed with whole grains and carrot chunks, sold in a brown paper wrapper. The 21st century version? It’s bloody-pink and fleshy, thanks to heme, an ingredient created via genetic engineering.

To those steeped in the natural-food movement, the acronym GMO — for genetically modified organisms — has traditionally been almost as taboo as a plate of braised veal. However, that view could be changing as a new generation of Bay Area entrepreneurs upends the alternative meat and dairy industry, using biotechnology to create vegetarian foods that taste more like meat and promise ecological advantages to boot.

“As somebody who has my entire life been a hard-core environmentalist — I went vegan for a large part for that reason — genetic engineering is one of the most important tools we can use in terms of environmental conservation,” said Mike Selden, co-founder and CEO of Finless Foods in San Francisco, which is replicating fish fillets out of stem cells, though not currently with genetic engineering.

Not everyone agrees, and as these products hit the market — including the aforementioned “veggie burger that bleeds” from Impossible Foods — consumer and environmental groups have called for greater oversight and testing than what’s currently required by the federal government. The debate brings up two very different ideas about what makes food sustainable and safe, as well as questions about how the public will react to these next-gen foods.

“The overarching issue is that any genetically engineered substance, since that’s a new technology, should be required to go through a safety assessment,” said Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union.

The specific technology Hansen referred to is being employed by at least a half dozen Bay Area scientist-food entrepreneurs. Often called yeast-based fermentation, it has been used to produce food, medicine and vaccines for decades and involves modifying the DNA of yeast or bacteria to express protein or other substances in a fermentation tank. The resulting product — whether milk or egg proteins — does not contain any genetically modified organisms, which are the yeast cells, but is produced via genetic engineering.

“When you talk about GMOs — in our final product there is no O,” said Alexander Lorestani, co-founder and CEO of Geltor, a San Leandro company that makes an animal-free gelatin for use in gummy candies, yogurt and many other food products.

New food products like Geltor’s gelatin and collagen, which haven’t yet hit the market, must first be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Companies can also voluntarily apply to have a new food additive classified as “Generally Recognized as Safe,” or GRAS. The company pays for the laboratory testing with FDA feedback.

Impossible Foods of Redwood City, which sells its burger meat to several restaurants around the country, said an independent panel of food experts has found its heme, a compound found in plants and animals that gives beef its meaty taste and color, to be safe. It plans to submit a GRAS application to the FDA this summer demonstrating its extensive testing.

These products have precursors in the food industry. Since the 1990s, most cheddar and other hard cheeses have been made with chymosin, a rennet-like enzyme produced with genetic engineering.

However, Hansen counters that chymosin shows up only in minuscule levels in cheese, whereas the new milk and gelatin proteins will come in larger amounts.

“There is not a long history of these engineered proteins,” he said.

Currently, food manufacturers don’t have to label products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, but many companies have begun doing so in light of a law passed in 2016 that would require those labels. It’s due to go into effect next year, unless the Trump administration changes it.

According to a 2016 report from the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of Americans say genetically engineered foods have health effects no different from other foods; 39 percent say they’re worse for health; and 10 percent say they’re better for health.

Whether the public will see a difference between genetically engineered Monsanto corn and vegan milk made with proteins from genetically engineered yeast, such as one being developed by Perfect Day in Berkeley, is hard to say. There could be a difference in reception to genetically engineered yeast in a tank compared with organisms that have more potential to invade the environment, such as engineered crops grown in a field or engineered salmon, which the FDA approved in 2015.

Impossible Foods CEO and founder Pat Brown, a former Stanford biochemistry professor, said he is transparent about the use of genetic engineering, partly because he feels that it makes his product more environmentally sustainable.

“Producing the soy protein this way instead of growing a cow to produce (protein) — that’s the real advantage,” said Brown. “The prime objective is to minimize the environmental footprint. It’s a hell of a lot better than growing a cow.”

The company just released a sustainability study asserting that compared with a beef burger, one of its burgers uses about 25 percent of the water and 5 percent of the land and generates 13 percent of the emissions.

But to Ethan Brown, president and CEO of Beyond Meat, a Southern California maker of plant-based burgers that are made without genetic engineering, using the technology would muddle the message.

“I think consumers can understand and appreciate our model, where protein and nutrients from the field are directly put to work in the form of plant-based meat, versus running plant material through an animal,” he wrote in an email. “In our specific case of plant-based meat, adding GMO ingredients creates a distraction that may be better to avoid altogether.”

And for Geltor’s Lorestani, who took a leave from a physician-scientist training program to start his company, the benefits of the technology are overwhelming. Insulin, for example, was originally made with cow or pig pancreas but is now made through genetic engineering based on human insulin.

“The tradition that I came out of,” he said, “has clearly shown that moving out of animal products and into biotechnology can fundamentally transform the health of people and make their lives better.”

Tara Duggan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: tduggan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @taraduggan

Here's the link to the whole article: [www.sfchronicle.com]

Gordon
Re: The Upside Of GMO
May 30, 2017 02:55PM
Without animal protein, soy appears to take its place---I don't know if you realize it but soy is very bad for people who have thyroid problems. I had Graves disease and had my thyroid ablated many years ago, I do take Synthroid, I wouldn't touch Soy with a ten foot pole.

Liz
Re: The Upside Of GMO
May 31, 2017 08:53AM
Liz: I think there's a big health difference between fermented and unfermented soy.

Here's an excerpt from Dr. Mercola on the subject:

The Truth About Fermented vs. Unfermented Soy
Fermented soy products are healthy protein foods. But what exactly is fermented soy? It’s a form of soy that has gone through a lengthy fermentation process that makes it digestion-friendly. The top three fermented soy foods are:

Natto – Fermented soybeans that become sticky and gooey with a strong, distinctive taste.
Tempeh – A fermented soybean cake with a firm texture and nutty, mushroom-like flavor.
Miso – A fermented soybean paste with a salty, buttery texture that’s commonly used in making miso soup.
In both Japan and China, the average person eats about an ounce of fermented soy each day, a far cry from the much larger amounts of unfermented soy in American diets. These relatively small amounts of fermented soy vs. unfermented soy offer much value to health.

The friendly bacteria or probiotics found in fermented soy help nourish the gut and digestive flora, boosting digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Because the majority of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract, these beneficial soy products aid immune function, too.

natto fermented soybeans
Soy that has gone through this fermentation process is:

Lower in “anti-nutrient” substances that act as toxins in your body
Easier to digest and less likely to cause gastric distress
Lower in phytates that prevent the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc
High in vitamin K2, an important nutrient for supporting bone and cardiovascular health
One of the biggest benefits of eating fermented soy products is for its vitamin K2 content. This vitamin is difficult to get from other foods, making fermented foods, especially natto or fermented soybeans, its best food source.

Vitamin K2 – Available in Fermented Soy, Not Unfermented Soy
Researchers are discovering the many roles vitamin K2 performs in your body, along with vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium. These four nutrients work closely together and depend upon each other to function properly. Here are just some of vitamin K2’s actions in your body:

Helps keep your arteries flexible and youthful
Helps make sure the calcium in your bloodstream ends up in your bones and not in your arteries, heart valves, and organs
Helps maintain strong healthy bones
Helps support muscle and nerve health
Helps prevent and relieve muscle cramps associated with aging
Helps support your brain’s vascular flow for brain health and memory
Here’s the best part about fermented soy: it contains the perfect form of vitamin K – vitamin K2 or menaquinone, or MK for short. Bacteria produce this type of vitamin K2 during the fermentation process. Vitamin K2 stays in your body longer, and provides even more benefits than the vitamin K1 you find in leafy green vegetables.

Researchers now suspect that as many as 97 percent of the general Western population may be low in vitamin K2, so adding fermented foods to your diet is an outstanding way to help maintain normal healthy levels.

For those individuals who don’t care for fermented soy products, fermented vegetables are an outstanding alternative. I eat fermented vegetables daily and you’ll find detailed instructions on my website for making them inexpensively at home.

If you don’t eat fermented soy or fermented vegetables, I recommend adding a vitamin K2 MK-7 supplement to your daily regimen. Far too many Westerners are believed to be deficient in this important nutrient, and unfortunately, there’s no accurate test to measure blood levels to know for sure if you are one of the many who are low.

Here's a link to his whole article: [probiotics.mercola.com]

Gordon
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