Stem Burger, The Future of Meat

The world is growing. People are multiplying. We are all living longer. And we like to eat. How do you satisfy a horde of hungry humans that want to live a long and hearty life? In this day and age we can turn to science to answer that question.

Genetically modified organisms or GMOs are a thing of the past, present, and likely our future. It is so important for people to understand the uses and benefits of being able to mass produce food to satisfy the hungry population. Well, at least to prepare for a future necessity for more food.  A new development in the world of food has peaked my interest. The creation of the schmeat, or as I like to call it, the Stem Burger. It is meat grown in vitro, and is really quite a step in the right direction, in fact, in more than one way. For animal right’s activists it definitely is a blessing in disguise.

Related Article: I Believe in GMOs

Enormous swaths of the population can’t bring themselves to become vegan, so it’s logical to support in vitro meat if its goal is to reduce suffering of animals

Says Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). It would be something new, where we no longer harm animals or mass produce them, instead we’d use their cells to grow the foods we need, or clone them rather for our purposes. Playing god only as a necessity some would argue. Yes, yes…

Religious groups are crying out against stem cell research, and it isn’t likely that it will ever be fully supported, but when push comes to shove and there isn’t enough food to feed families, where will we turn? Mind you, these concerns aren’t something that we should fear or even worry about in our current state, but a stem burger could lead to other preparations for the future.

Granted, this Stem Burger actually wasn’t the best burger that participants of a taste test have tasted, however, with work, I am positive that a Stem Burger will become the number one choice for people in the future. Now if the scientific community could only use stem cells for medicinal uses without being criticized and scrutinized…

May that future come swiftly. Cheers!

Related Article: Don’t Fear Anti-GM Hysteria



Time: Meet ‘Schmeat’


Wondergressive: The Ugly Face of Overpopulation

Wondergressive: I Believe in GMOs

Wondergressive: Don’t Fear Anti-GM Hysteria

Did You Know That Certain Plants Do Division?

Plants Do Division

Plants Do Division


I thought that only humans can do arithmetic, but plants do division as well. I guess a brain with a neocortex is not required. New research shows that arabidopsis plants perform an arithmetic feat to know how to distribute stored energy during the night when there is no light, preventing starvation.

Plants get their energy from light through a process called photosynthesis. This involves breaking down carbon dioxide compounds into sugars. And we all know what awesome byproduct that gives us; oxygen! So during the day they store sugars, and during the night plants do division in order to distribute the sugars at a steady rate. This insight comes from new research done by the scientists at the John Innes Centre and found through the open access journal eLife.

It is vital that plants do division in order to be able to grow properly. Learning more about this process has some implications, such as possible plant hacking in order to achieve higher crop yields. This is already being done with GMOs.

Plants do division during night time. There are certain “mechanisms” in the leaves that measure how much of the starch is stored and how much time will pass until the sun rises. Plants also have a sort of an internal “biological clock” which allows them to guess when dawn will come. There are three clock genes that work together like a seesaw. When dawn comes, these genes instruct the plant to make two proteins, CCA1 and LHY. These proteins tell the plant that it is daytime. During the day these are destroyed, which allows for the third protein, TOC1, to be made. This tells the plant that it is night time. That last protein also tells the plant that it’s time to make the first two, so the whole process cycles again.

According to Professor Alison Smith,

the calculations are so precise so that plants prevent starvation but also make most efficient use of their food.

Using up the starch too fast will induce starvation, while using it up too slow will waste the unused starch. Scientists predict that there are two molecules that encode the information about how much starch is stored at a given time and time until dawn breaks. Let’s call these molecules S and T for the time being. The rate at which starch is consumed is set by the ratio of S molecules to T molecules. Because a ratio is actually a fancy way to say division, scientists are confident in the claim that plants are division experts.


It Says Organic: Does That Mean It’s Non GMO?

non GMO food products

USDA certified organic non GMO Wheat

GMO or non GMO? That is the question….

Lately, GMO products have been hit with some bad publicity. I recently went to a local grocery store in Palatine, Illinois and took a photo of this USDA Organic certified wheat package. In case you can’t see it, this is a whole wheat Gemelli brand wheat product with the fancy USDA Organic logo. However, an organic label alone does not guarantee that you are getting a non GMO product.

What’s the Difference?

non gmo use graph

The agriculture industry has decided the answer to the question for you: “GMO or non GMO?” .

The difference is what each of these terms describe. The term organic is used to define how a product is grown. GMO and non GMO are adjectives that describe whether the product is genetically altered in some way. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. An organism that is genetically modified can still be grown organically.

GMO plants have their genetic code changed in a way deemed beneficial by scientists, not by nature.  Before 1997 the USDA Organic label did not specify whether or not the produce grown organically was non GMO or if GMO plants needed to be excluded from the definition of organic. Over the years the USDA has changed it’s stance.

The USDA government website states that,

USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use…

These standards cover the product from farm to table, including soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.

Organic farms and processors:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

These standards specifically state that USDA certified organic products are in fact non GMO products as well. This is not necessarily true for all organic standards and certainly has not been true at all times in the past.

According to,

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its draft National Organic Program rule. At this time, they proposed that organic allow the use of GMOs. This proposal was unacceptable to consumers, manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and basically anyone who had anything to do with organic.

The battle ended with consumers and farmers reigning victorious.

The final rule outlines that an organic operation has to document that it has not used GMOs and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with GMOs. Whether a product is labeled “100% organic,” “certified organic” (with an allowance of 5% non-organic ingredients) or “made with organic” (a minimum of 70% organic ingredients), none of the ingredients are permitted to use genetic engineering.

That means in a “made with organic” cereal containing 70 percent organic ingredients, the remaining 30 percent non-organic ingredients cannot be produced from genetic engineering. Providers of non-organic ingredients being used in organic products, must also be able to provide proof that their ingredients are non GMO.

So the USDA Organic certification on a product is the government’s guarantee that these products will contain only non GMO ingredients. If you want to avoid GMO products and go only for the non GMO, then this is as sure of a bet as you can get at the grocery store.

non gmo map

Want to go non GMO in he US? Good luck.

How To Tell If A Product is Non GMO

If you don’t want to buy exclusively USDA certified organic products but would still like to eat non GMO foods there is another way to go about your grocery shopping. It is common for produce to use short numbers called PLU codes, or price-look-ups, to indicate what kind of product is behind the label. It can be used to indicate manufacturer, color, etc. It is often used to indicate growing conditions. The major benefit of the PLU system is that each PLU code is unique to each product, regardless of where you buy it. This is key for those people going the non GMO route.

The PLU Code user guide states that:

The IFPS shall be responsible for deciding the assignment and definition of qualifying prefix digits
for international recognition. At present, only three digits have been allocated:

0 Applies to all non-qualified produce and is generally presented without the leading
“zero” digit.
8 Genetically modified
9 Organic

This means that if the PLU code is five digits the first digit indicates organic or genetically modified, but it is not mandatory for the producer to specify if they do not want to. If the PLU code is four digits, then PLU code will not indicate whether the product is GMO or non GMO. While it is not currently a requirement in the United States to label GMO produce, in the USA and Canada, food manufacturers are not allowed to label their food as 100% organic if any GMOs are used.  To be 100% certain that your food is organic: look for an organic label, a 9 at the beginning of a 5 digit PLU code, or just grown your own.



Sources: USDA says “organic” means “non GMO” Organic Agriculture National Organic Standard

International Federation of Produce Standards

IFPS- Produce PLU Codes User Guide

Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?

Organic Food Council- Certified Food Logos

Snopes- PLU Codes

Don’t Fear Anti-GM Hysteria (Nor the Reaper)!


A couple of weeks ago the New York Times published a short article on how all genetically modified (GM) products sold in Whole Foods Market would have to be labeled as such by 2018. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the editorial board both agreed that a private entity is free to require whatever labels it desires while also denouncing the need for expensive mandatory labeling in other stores throughout America.

The organic food movement, and the labels that go with it, has been surging in popularity for over the past decade. Although some of its tenets, like promoting local produce, are relatively benign and sensical, others are much more pernicious. The most dangerous of these is the completely unsubstantiated idea that GM foods are harmful for a variety of dubious reasons, like that they are less healthy than organic foods or that the pesticides and herbicides used to grow conventional crops are harming humans. The general vibe I get from more militant organic foodies is that GM food is inherently untrustworthy, cannot help feed a growing population, and that it is actively destroying the planet. The fervor I’ve witnessed for these beliefs borders on religious.

For all the vitriol and the-end-is-nigh rhetoric, the bad rap that GM foods gets is entirely a fabrication, the product of campaigns of misinformation by groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Navdanya.

In reality, GMOs are actually extremely beneficial for multiple reasons. For one, they cost less than organic products to the consumer. They also are genetically resistant to chemicals like glyphosate, an herbicide commercially sold as Round Up. This means that farmers no longer have to use other chemicals that are at least three times as toxic as Round Up and stay in the environment about twice as long. This lack of toxicity also helps reduce topsoil erosion by up to 90%.  GM crops also allow for more food to be grown on any given acre of land, which helps reduce deforestation.

In September of last year, Stanford University released a meta-analysis of over 200 studies on the effects of conventional and organic foods to determine the nutritiousness and safety of GM products for humans.

“They concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive. Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli.

The researchers also found no obvious health advantages to organic meats.

Conventional fruits and vegetables did have more pesticide residue, but the levels were almost always under the allowed safety limits, the scientists said. The Environmental Protection Agency sets the limits at levels that it says do not harm humans.”

These findings should come as no shock as they confirm what many other scientific bodies have already discovered. The National Academy of Sciences noted in a 2004 report that

“no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”

The World Health Organization reports that

“GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

In 2010 the European Commission finished a decade’s worth of research over the GM debate, concluding that

“there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.”

Genetically modified food is simply not the boogeyman many want people to believe it is.

In response to the Stanford study, Roger Cohen penned an op-ed in the Times entitled The Organic Fable in which he gleefully celebrated its findings. His stance and exasperation with the organic movement directly mirrors my own:

“Organic has long since become an ideology, the romantic back-to-nature obsession of an upper middle class able to afford it and oblivious, in their affluent narcissism, to the challenge of feeding a planet whose population will surge to 9 billion before the middle of the century and whose poor will get a lot more nutrients from the two regular carrots they can buy for the price of one organic carrot.”

When groups like Greenpeace denigrate and demonize GM products, they are purposefully denying the incredible things GMOs have accomplished and how many millions of lives they have saved by instead greenwashing the issue with pro-organic propaganda.

Norman Borlaug provides perhaps my favorite story about the astounding successes of genetically modifying crops. In 1968 Paul Ehrlich published his bestseller, The Population Bomb, in which he predicted that hundreds of millions of people in Southeast Asia would soon starve as the land simply couldn’t provide enough calories to maintain the growing multitudes. Borlaug and his team, however, were already hard at work developing and introducing a special type of high-yield dwarf wheat to the region. The crop was naturally resistant to many pests and diseases and allowed farmers to double or even triple their harvest. Later, a special high-yield variety of rice was developed, spreading the cornucopia across all of Asia.

For all of his work, Borlaug was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. A modern-day saint, he is credited with saving as many as one billion lives from famine and starvation. 

In modern times, a GM crop named Golden Rice has been developed over the past 30 years to combat Vitamin A deficiency. This malady kills an estimated  650,000 children under the age of five every year. Despite Golden Rice’s potential to drastically alleviate this tragedy, groups like Greenpeace and Dr. Vandana of Navdanya have not only opposed, but have also consistently delayed the implementation of this breakthrough, maintaining that Golden Rice poses an unnecessary danger to human health and to local farmers through crop contamination.

I am not explicitly against organics or the local food movement; what people purchase and what they eat is none of my business. However, I am strongly opposed to the knee-jerk reactions of some people and organizations that not only classify all GM products as being harmful, but who also lobby to make them illegal for other people to use or benefit from.

People should be free to choose whatever food or technology that they see fit. No well-fed person should sit in their armchair and actively campaign against crops that could drastically improve, or even save the lives of people who might want to cultivate them.

Good on The New York Times for realizing that mandated GM labeling is an onerously expensive and pointless intrusion on private retailers who don’t desire to do so voluntarily. Hopefully supporters of both organic and conventional products can realize that making food more costly only exacerbates problems both at home and around the world.

Sadly, however, I fear that the anti-GM movement has a reflexive, animistic attitude towards food that they deem to be “impure.” For my desire to see billions of sated stomachs in the coming decades, I hope I’m wrong.






Court Battle Begins Between David and Goliath, Bowman and Monsanto


On Tuesday the court case Bowman vs. Monsanto got underway in the Supreme court. Vernon H. Bowman, a 75-year-old farmer in Indiana has been sued for infringing on a patent that Monsanto holds on genetically modified soy beans.

Monsanto produces genetically modified seeds which are Roundup Ready and can withstand herbicides as well as weed killers. This makes for an increased volume of successfully grown corn, soy beans, etc., but it also leads to another problem, and that is farmers indiscriminately spraying herbicides and pesticides knowing that the GMO crops won’t fail to reach harvest. This has made Monsanto’s seeds very successful in the farming community.

According to Monsanto, the farmers sign an agreement in which they agree to use the seeds for a year, and have to buy new seeds for the following growing season. Mr. Bowman however circumvented this patent system for over 8 years by purchasing soybeans from a nearby grain elevator, and using them for his harvests. You can read more about this Supreme Court challenge by Bowman.

Here are some of the main questions that are being asked in regards to this case:

Does Monsanto hold rights to the DNA of a seed that is an offspring of an originally purchased seed?

This question intrigues just about everybody from Monsanto to the music industry, movie industry, and anywhere else where copyrights are a concern. First of all, what needs to be cleared up is whether Monsanto holds patent rights to the physical seed itself, or just the DNA molecules. If it holds patent rights to the DNA molecule chains, then it should allow the farmers to reuse the new seeds at a discounted rate. It was, after all, the farmer’s fertile soil that did the work to produce the seeds, relieving Monsanto of some overhead. On the other hand, if Monsanto holds the rights to the complete seed itself, then that raises the next question:

Does the lifetime of the contract when purchasing seeds extend beyond the original seeds and into the newly harvested seeds?

According to Justice Stephen Breyer, patent law holds that it is illegal to plant them:

What it prohibits here is making a copy of the patented invention and that is what he did.

Now I’m not a farmer nor an expert in agriculture, but I am familiar with the issue of pirating CDs, DVDs, copying music, software and so on. The aforementioned copying examples are completely controllable. You can quite simply just say to yourself, copying is illegal and I should not participate in such acts.

But in the case of Bowman vs. Monsanto, how can it be considered illegal to copy a seed (the patented invention) when seed reproduction is an inevitable process of harvesting? Not forgetting to mention that a seed itself is a form of a living organism, does Monsanto have the right to newly reproduced life? Can newly formed life be potentially patented? This is a topic all by itself.

I do not believe that Monsanto could hold rights to the new seeds, as they are not the ones who physically produced them. Therefore the lifetime of the contract should not be able to go past the originally bought seeds. It’s just like burning a music CD. The album producer does not hold rights to the physical CD itself, rather to the make up, the songs. Therefore I do not think that Bowman breached any contracts.

So in the end, what Monsanto can hold rights to are the intellectual property, which is the DNA within the newly reproduced seeds.

It’s cheaper to buy a music album on iTunes than the physical album in a store. It’s cheaper to download a movie legally (in most cases) than to purchase a physical disc at a store. It’s also cheaper to download an eBook than to buy the physical book itself from a book store. The big difference in the digital purchases is the overhead cost relief that producers get by licencing just the intellectual property, and therefore being able to sell the “intellectual property” at a lower price.

Why can’t Monsanto do something similar?



New York Times
Huffington Post
Time Ideas
USA Today

I Believe in GMOs


There is a seemingly never ending stream of controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There appears to be two polar opposite views on the subject. In one camp, there are people who are happy to see a new science become incorporated into a system that could potentially offer tremendous support to the food industry and help to feed millions. In the other camp are individuals who go so far as to claim that they “know” that GMO’s cause cancer and that they will undoubtedly destroy the environment. So which is it? Like most issues, the subject of GMO’s is not black and white.

First, let’s discuss what a GMO actually is. A GMO is any organism that has a gene from another organism artificially inserted into its genome. Why would we want to do this? We can take a desirable trait from one species and incorporate it into another. Now for a lot of people, that’s all they need to hear. They immediately assume that this process will result in a dangerous plant or animal that could pose a risk to the environment, the consumer, or both. I disagree with this broad sentiment. The simple act of modifying an organism genetically does not tell us if it will be harmful or beneficial. That depends on which genes have been introduced and what their by-products will be. For example, a new GMO plant that produces a pesticide within itself that is poisonous to humans is, obviously, likely going to be detrimental when the gene product (the pesticide) is eaten. However, if the gene codes for an enzyme that helps the plant resist drought, for example, this gene will likely have no effect on whoever eats it.

Let’s look at an example: tomatoes with a gene from a fish. Here, a gene from a cold water fish was introduced into the tomato’s genome. This inserted gene codes for an “antifreeze” protein that helps prevent the fish (and in this case the tomato) from freezing in cold climates. This genetic change simply introduces the antifreeze protein into the tomato. If one wants to claim that eating a tomato that expresses this protein is dangerous, then it is similar to saying you should never eat tomatoes and fish together, since your stomach would end up with the same combination of proteins (from the tomato and the fish). The point I want to get across here is that it’s not the process of genetically modifying an organism that is dangerous. What determines if it is dangerous or not to the consumer is what the newly introduced gene will express in the new organism.

The second major concern people have about GMOs is their potential impact on the environment. I feel that this is a more legitimate concern. If a GMO proves to be more resilient, bigger, faster, or simply better able to survive than it’s natural counterpart, then the GMO could potentially become an invasive species and out compete the original native species if it is introduced into the environment. This could potentially have dire consequences on the environment as the biodiversity of the ecosystem in question could be greatly reduced if one species begins to take over. GMO producers attempt to avoid this situation by producing organisms that will be incapable of producing naturally in the wild. For example, genetically modified salmon are engineered to be sterile, so even if they escape into the environment they will soon die off. As long as the proper precautions are taken, the likelihood of a GMO devastating the environment can be minimal.

The potential benefits of GMOs are obvious: the ability to grow more nutritious food faster and in areas where these foods could not be produced before. This opens the opportunity for many starving parts of the world to become less dependent on food imports. It is primarily for this reason that I think the pursuit of GMO production is worthwhile. What will determine whether a given GMO proves to be beneficial or not, depends on the initial intentions of the genetic engineers. If we focus on being able to increase yield and nutrition while decreasing the use of pesticides and antibiotics, I believe that GMOs can be invaluable for our future. If, however, GMOs are designed with strictly economical goals in mind, then the potential to do harm is great. I feel strongly that GMO research should be government funded with these positive goals in mind, and not pursued solely by private corporations looking to capitalize on control of the world’s food supply.

I for one will continue to support GMO research because of its massive potential to help the world. As Uncle Ben said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Let’s make sure that we don’t damage our world, but let’s also not get caught up in hysteria and block the advancement of science.



Can Genetically Modified Corn Form Tumors in the Body?

If you are planning on prolonging your life and evading this cancer frenzy, you should be careful of which breakfast cereals and tortilla chips you choose. If you are not aware of the negative effects of wheat, a quick glance about wheat and what gluten is won’t hurt, but read on to learn about yet another daily source of negative possibilities.

Most of the consumed corn in the United States is genetically modified. According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Caen connecting genetically modified corn and long term effects on health, it can cause rapid and uncontrollable tumor growth as well as damage organs. This has been already tested on research rats. We can be thankful to Monsanto for the GM maize and their fertilizer, which in trace amounts is enough to cause the aforementioned wreck along with premature death.

According to the same site, this genetically modified maize that we all consume, also known as NK603, even in the smallest quantities has made the rats form tumors in the mammary glands as well as develop liver and kidney damage. The male rats exhibited the observable effects as early as 4 months, and female rats as early as 7 months. The control group observed the effects within twenty-three and fourteen months respectively.

Here is a quick list of some the facts from the study

  • Between 50 to 80 per cent of female rats developed large tumours by the beginning of the 24th month, with up to three tumours per animal. Only 30 per cent of the control rats developed tumours

  • Up to 70 per cent of females died prematurely compared with only 20 per cent in the control group

  • Tumours in rats of both sexes fed the GM corn were two to three times larger than in the control group

  • The large tumours appeared in females after seven months, compared to 14 months in the control group. The team said the tumours were ‘deleterious to health due to a very large size’, making it difficult for the rats to breathe and causing digestive problems

Shortly after the release of this study RT reports that:

The national academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, sciences, technology and veterinary studies issued a joint statement condemning the findings on Monsanto’s NK603 corn, which were published last month by molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen.

RT also reports that Seralini’s study also:

earned widespread criticism for its methodology. Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London, saying the study was a “statistical fishing trip,”manipulated from the start to achieve a specific result.

This later report was released and backed by two government-commissioned scientific reviews, however Monsanto has a bit of a history of manipulating governments and placing itself in a seat of power.

Genetically modified food is a very controversial debate with many sides to the story. In the mean time we should think about what we’re putting into our bodies and make sure to always read labels when buying food.






The Grocer- Monsanto Roundup Weedkiller and GM Maize Implicated in ‘Shocking’ New Cancer Study

Wondergressive- Save the Food Pyramid by Cutting it by the Limbs

Wondergressive- Natural, Living Pesticides

International Journal of Biological Sciences- A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health

Mail Online- Cancer row over GM foods as study says it did THIS to rats… and can cause organ damage and early death in humans

RT- Good crop, bad crop: French scientists dismiss Monsanto ‘cancer corn’ study

Global Research- Obama Gives Key Agriculture Post to Monsanto Man

Wondergressive- And the Court Battle Begins Between David and Goliath, Bowman and Monsanto

Wondergressive- I Believe in GMOs