Category ►►► Future of Food
September 15, 2011
The Story of "O" in the French-Fry Spring
Thirst Lady Michelle Obama has a wonderful announcement to make:
Darden Restaurants Inc. is pledging to cut calories and sodium in its meals by 20 percent over a decade. Among promised changes for children, a fruit or vegetable side and low-fat milk will become standard with kids' meals unless a substitution is requested.
No more French fries for the little ones unless an adult asks for them.
So the Thirst Lady has but to demand, and a monster restaurant chain -- 1,800 restaurants across the United States, including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Red Lobster -- cannot wait to begin bullying its customers.
Now let's see how this works: The government gives the orders through a back channel (in this case, the president's wife), but doesn't actually seize the corporation itself; the central authority makes all decisions, but Darden's owners are free to continue accepting the profits.
A public-private partnership; what will they think of next? Though it seems to me there's already a fancy Italian word for that sort of arrangement...
"With this new commitment, Darden is doing what no restaurant company has done before," said the first lady, who joined executives of Orlando, Fla.-based Darden for the announcement at an Olive Garden restaurant in Maryland, just outside Washington.
Yep, Evita Obama has that right: No restaurant company in the United States has ever before bowed down to literal food fascism to this extent, not even McDonalds with their Unhappy Meals. Even the food rationing regime during
the Great Patriotic War World War II didn't actually tell ordinary people what they could and could not eat for lunch. It's a first!
Old records keep falling like dropped french fries in the age of Obamunism.
Meanwhile, will Mrs. O. begin to taper off those 1,200-calorie cheeseburgers, those chocolate shakes, and yes, her own double orders of french fries? (It's all right; she chugged it all down with a large Diet Coke.)
This hagiographic AP story enthuses that "the industry" is "working behind the scenes" with Congress to enact food directives into law. It's not surprising; Big Food supports anything that makes food production more expensive, so long as it applies to all restaurants: The big chains can afford to spend the money to buy pricey ingredients, label everything, and keep copious records to prove they're following orders and not allowing people under the age of eighteen to order their own meals.
It's only the small mom and pop restaurants that will go out of business. Applebee's, McDonalds, and Darden's will make out just fine.
P.S. Some clown with the initials "DaH" reported this post to Barack H. Obama's "AttackWatch" website. The nerve!
I sure hope none of you other readers report the post to AttackWatch by clicking on this link; think of the horrible publicity it could bring to Big Lizards!
August 1, 2008
Democrats to Drivers (Bus Riders, Truckers, etc): Drop Dead
A most extraordinary exchange occurred yesterday in the august halls (thought it was still July) of the United States Senate. (Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt, who played this on his show today.)
It shows the Democrat in his natural environment: Complete disdain for working Americans, and utter indifference to their problems... but slavishly doting upon the various interlocking special interests that prop up the Democratic Party, like creeping vines holding a crumbling facade in precarious balance.
Just take a look-see:
Sen. Ken Salazar's (D-CO, 85%) message is stark: There is no gasoline price level, no matter how dear, beyond which Democrats will actually support drilling for more domestic oil. None. It could go to $100 a gallon, and they would still fold their arms and, like Khrushchev at the U.N., bark "Nyet!
Current projections from the "pundants" (as President George W. Bush calls them) are that Republicans will be slaughtered in November. Democrats are still talking about a "filibuster-proof majority" in the Senate, or even "veto-proof" majorities in one or both houses.
I say that's nonsense: If we can focus like a laser beam on issues like energy, taxes, the economy, jobs, winning the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, reforming immigration (including legal immigration), and confirming judges who won't rewrite the Constitution to fit the current fashion trend... then I say we can reduce the loses to negligible -- and maybe even nab a net seat in the Senate, if we can hold our own and pick off Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA, 80%). So far, the GOP is running a terrific campaign for the congressional races, and John S. McCain is running a pretty good campaign for president (still room for improvement there).
It's time, time for conservatives to come back and put country ahead of their own power within the party; it's time to come together, fight to take back Congress and retain la Casa Blanca -- then all Republicans must make reparations for their complete meltdown from 2004-2006, when they became as corrupt as the Democrats.
A good start would be for the GOP, either overtly or covertly, to support some other candidate other than incrumbent Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 64% -- poster-boy for the corruption of the flesh of swine) in the Alaska primary later this month.
May 1, 2008
And Now for Something Completely Gassy...
I suppose a couple of you have noticed food prices rising. (This only applies to those of us who eat.)
The major reason, of course, is the continued industrialization of large countries with economies that are just now emerging from third-world status -- especially in Asia, and particularly China and India. As more and more of their combined 2.46 billion residents (36.8% of the world's population) shift into a middle-class lifestyle, they eat more (duh); that means less food for everyone else, as neither has increased food production at anywhere near the rate they've increased consumption. (China has the additional burden of a water pollution and food contaminantion problem of staggering proportions.)
I suspect there is another hidden cause of food shortages and the consequent price rise; but none of the elite media has mentioned it (for reasons that will become obvious), so I don't know how much or little it contributes. From the beginning of the Clinton era until very recently, many countries in Europe, Africa, and especially Latin America have shifted leftwards. With internationalist obsessions with "land reform," anti-white racism, and the war against agribusiness, I suspect they've inadvertently sabotaged their food production and export.
Zimbabwe is the poster-child of this problematic trend:
Food insecurity in Zimbabwe is a result of a combination of factors, not all of which are due to climate. Drought-related food production problems, chaos resulting from violent disputes over the legitimacy of President Robert Mugabe's re-election, and the government's quixotic approach to land redistribution have combined to exacerbate the food shortage. In February 2000, seizure of white-owned farms commenced, and it increased in frequency leading up to the election in March 2002. At that point, Mugabe decided to break up the large white-owned commercial farms for the country's landless war veterans, which reduced the large-scale commercial-sector planted area by 74 percent compared with 2000-01 levels. (2) Due to pressures from the land redistribution program, large-scale commercial cattle stock, which traditionally accounted for up to 90 percent of national beef exports, is estimated to have declined by 70 percent from 1.3 million in December 2001 to 400,000 in July 2002.
I've never seen hard data, but I suspect revolutionary land-, energy-, and water-use policies have annihilated a significant part of the world food supply.
Still, at least some of the problem can be laid at the doorstep of the mass movement away from oil drilling -- and towards ethanol production from corn and other grains, items which are better eaten than burnt.
Thus, this research should come as very welcome news: General Motors has started sinking significant money into developing methods of creating ethanol out of the trash-parts of grain, out of wood pulp, and other inedibles:
The General Motors Corporation announced on Thursday that it was hedging its bets on how best to make ethanol from non-grain sources, and making an investment in a second company with technology that might do that job cost-effectively.
G.M., which has pledged to make half its vehicle production ethanol-compatible by 2012, said it had taken an equity position in Mascoma, a company based in Lebanon, N.H., that has three proprietary technologies for making ethanol from sources like papermill waste, corn stalks, wood chips and switchgrass. G.M. would not reveal the amount of its investment or the size of its stake.
In January, G.M. bought a stake in a company named Coskata that would use similar raw materials but with a different process.
I don't really see a downside to this. Coskata says that it can produce a gallon of ethanol from such otherwise junk plant sources for just a dollar to a dollar fifty; if they could produce ethanol at sufficient rates -- which they can't just yet -- that could dramatically lower fuel costs (for vehicles capable of burning alcohol-gasoline combinations).
So could drilling more of our own oil, of course; but there is no reason, other than political poltroonery, that we can't do both.
Evidently, it's the early stages of production, prior to fermentation, that need some real breakthroughs:
Ethanol made from non-grain materials, known as cellulose, is identical to corn ethanol, and the final steps ae usually the same: using yeast to ferment sugars into alcohol. But getting the sugar out of the cellulose is complicated. The process usually requires treating the cellulose with steam or acids to open up the material, and then letting enzymes — the digestive juices of bacteria or fungi — free the sugars. In addition, the cellulose includes both conventional six-carbon sugars as well as five-carbon sugars, but most industrial-grade yeast only likes the six-carbon variety.
Executives at Mascoma said they had developed a patented process, using heat and mechanical action, to treat the cellulose, avoiding the use of chemicals.
And, they said, they are working with some bacteria that feed off cellulose and break it down, and others that are efficient at converting sugars to ethanol. “Each one exists separately in nature,” said Dr. Lee R. Lynd, a founder of the company and its chief scientist. Now they are using gene splicing to give a single organism the ability to do both.
The approach is potentially simpler than the one used by some competitors, which is to digest the cellulose using an enzyme made in a separate process.
Just something to keep an eye on; it should be obvious that if we can make enough ethanol out of stuff we ordinarily would throw away, such as "papermill waste," it would be stupid to ferment and burn edible crops.
Once again, it's technology to the rescue. If Thomas Malthus were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave.
April 9, 2007
Dems: ADM More Important Than Starving African Children
The 110th Democratic Congress -- like the 109th Republican Congress before them -- is more concerned with the profits of Archer Daniels Midland than getting food to starving African Children... and even the New York Times has noticed!
The United Nations World Food program supplies food rations to more than half a million impoverished Zambians, 50,000 of them with HIV or full-blown AIDS. But as American-made drugs gradually make Zambians healthier, they also get hungrier; and the food rations are in danger of running out, leading to possible mass starvation.
Hoping to forestall such a dire outcome, the World Food Program made an urgent appeal in February for cash donations so it could buy corn from Zambia’s own bountiful harvest, piled in towering stacks in the warehouses of the capital, Lusaka.
But the law in the United States requires that virtually all its donated food be grown in America and shipped at great expense across oceans, mostly on vessels that fly American flags and employ American crews -- a process that typically takes four to six months.
For a third year, the Bush administration, which has pushed to make foreign aid more efficient, is trying to change the law to allow the United States to use up to a quarter of the budget of its main food aid program to buy food in developing countries during emergencies. The proposal has run into stiff opposition from a potent alliance of agribusiness, shipping and charitable groups with deep financial stakes in the current food aid system.
And the Democrats in Congress seem to be as deeply in thrall to the lobbyists who represent these special interests as were the Republicans in the last Congress. So much for cleaning up the "Republican culture of corruption" to create "the most ethical Congress in history!"
The United States Agency for International Development [USAID] estimated that if Congress adopted the Bush proposal, the United States could annually feed at least a million more people for six months and save 50,000 more lives.
But the Democrats don't want to do it, and they have a glib argument for doing nothing to clean up the corruption inherent in a program that has become almost a foreign-policy "entitlement."
They claim that "decoupling" food aid from domestic agribusiness would quickly cause support for such aid to wane. But if you break it down, what they're really saying is that they, personally, will not vote for food aid unless it's really disguised corporate welfare for Big Food. After all, what difference does "support" (polling) make on Congress' decision to supply food aid -- unless Congress intends to act as a political weathercock?
Representative Tom Lantos, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, warned last year at a food aid conference in Washington that decoupling food aid from American maritime and agribusiness interests was “beyond insane.” [Can somebody please tell me what, exactly, lies "beyond insane?"]
“It is a mistake of gigantic proportions,” he said, “because support for such a program will vanish overnight, overnight.”
But according to the acting deputy director of USAID, James Kunder, the Bush proposal would affect only 0.5% of U.S. agricultural exports, thus could not possibly adversely affect American agriculture.
It would, however, adversely affect the bottom line of four specific companies which get most of the contracts... and it would also affect a huge percentage of congressional campaign contributions from Big Food. Now that the Democrats are the majority party, they're in line for the lion's share of that "food aid."
So they don't want to upset the gruel-cart:
Over the past three years, the same four companies and their subsidiaries -- Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge and the Cal Western Packaging Corporation -- have sold the American government more than half the $2.2. billion in food for Food for Peace, the largest food aid program, and two smaller programs, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Shipping companies were paid $1.3 billion over the same period to move the food aid overseas, the department’s figures show....
Agribusiness and shipping groups vigorously oppose the Bush administration proposal to buy food in developing countries with cash, which they argue is more likely to be stolen. They say that American food is safer and of higher quality and that the government can speed delivery by storing it in warehouses around the world.
And they defend the idea that federal spending should benefit American business and farming interests, as well as the hungry. Without support from such interest groups, food aid budgets from Congress would wither, they say.
Well, there you are; they know the attention-span of their congressional clients.
I apologize if my sense of humor seems to drive out my sense of serious about this serious problem; but I so clearly remember then-Rep., now Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) shrill denunciation of Republicans as fostering a "culture of corruption." She added the following in an Op-Ed directly after the election:
With their votes, the American people asked for change. They cast their ballots in favor of a New Direction.
They called for greater integrity in Washington, and Democrats pledge to make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history.
It's hard to know what she meant by this. Though of course, the next paragraph makes us a bit dubious that when Pelosi says "most honest, ethical, and open Congress," she is not using the normal definitions of those words found in most dictionaries...
The American people called for greater civility in how Congress conducts its work, and Democrats pledge to conduct our work with civility and bipartisanship, and to act in partnership - not partisanship - with the president and Republicans in Congress. [!]
Judging from the Democrats' responsiveness so far -- responsive to the big-money lobbyists, I mean, as the massive mound of pork larded into the supplemental war-funding bill illustrates -- I would have to stick with what I wrote in that earlier post:
So now we know what the Divine Ms. P. means by "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." She means a Congress where all the pork and beans goes to the good Democrats, rather the evil Republicans. And now that the electorate has thrown the old bums out, problem solved.
Meet the new boss...
January 13, 2007
Embryonic Steak Cells
Here's a juicy post...
The whole point of stem cells (embryonic, placental, uterine, or adult) is that they can be made to grow into any kind of cellular tissue needed; and you needn't grow the entire organism in order to produce, say, pancreatic tissue, liver cells, or neurons. Or, for that matter, muscle tissue, grown from a "myoblast" stem cell... which brings up a very interesting scenario.
What is another name for the muscle tissue of a steer, a castrated male bovine? Try ribeye steak, or T-bone, or rump roast. Another name for the muscle tissue of a pig is pork roast or bacon or sausage.
All right, you're way ahead of me; but the scientists are way ahead of us both, because I didn't even think about this until I read this article: biological researchers in the United States and the Netherlands have been experimenting in growing meat directly from animal stem cells, without having to grow the entire pig or steer:
In different parts of the world, rival research teams are racing to produce meat using cell-culture technology. Several patents have been filed. Scientists at Nasa has been experimenting since 2001 and the Dutch Government is sponsoring a $4 million (£2 million) project to cultivate pork meat.
The idea may be stomach-turning, but the science for making pork in a Petri dish already exists.
(Actually, they use adult animal stem cells; I just liked the sound of "embryonic" in the title... drags a little ersatz controversy into the post.)
I accept that some people's stomachs may be upset by the thought, but I don't understand why. In fact, this would be a Godsend to billions of starving people all over the world. Not to mention millions of religious vegetarians, as they could start eating meat without making even a single animal suffer!
Put simply, the process relies on a muscle precursor cell known as a myoblast, a sort of stem cell preprogrammed to grow into muscle. This cell is extracted from a living animal, and encouraged to multiply in a nutritional broth of glucose, amino acids, minerals and growth factors -- [Winston] Churchill’s “suitable medium” [Churchill suggested such a technique back in 1936]. The cells are poured on to a “scaffold” and placed in a bioreactor, where they are stretched, possibly using electrical impulses, until they form muscle fibres.
The resulting flesh is then peeled off in a “meat-sheet”and may be ground up for sausages, patties or nuggets.
There are still some major hurdles to overcome:
- Blood vessels: Nobody has yet grown an artery or a vein from stem cells; without blood, meat could only be grown in ultra-thin sheets, since each cell needs to be hydrated and nourished during growth... which means the "meat-sheet" must be thin enough that the growth medium will contact every cell.
- Taste: Since this is brand new, nobody knows how much of taste in inherent in the meat, and how much is added by what the animal eats, drinks, and how much exercise it gets. Experience tasting the meat in many different countries tells me that a great deal of taste is nurture, not nature.
- Luddite hysteria: every advance in food science is met by shrieks of "Frankenfood!" from portly, aging hippies who have never skipped a meal in their entire lives; and who have devoted those overfed lives to protecting the world's starving masses from the "wrong kind" of food.
I strongly suspect that the first two barriers will be broken; they're just engineering details: we'll learn to grow arteries, veins, and blood; and we'll learn how to artificially modify the natural taste of lab meat to give the distinct flavor of, e.g., Kobe beef or Finnish reindeer.
At that point, the world will experience a terrible war over the third hurdle: Do we proceed with the mass manufacture of such "in vitrio" meat and give the Third World the greatest nutritional gift in human history?
Or do we label it "Frankenfood" and condemn billions of people to starvation because our sensibilities are offended? (See if you can guess which answer I hope prevails; I tried to hide my biases as well as the elite media does.)
I first encountered the idea of growing meat in one of the best science fiction novels ever written, the Space Merchants, by Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth (1953, first serialized as "Gravy Planet" in Galaxy Magazine, June/July/August 1952). In that dark, satirical book, the vast population of the Earth is fed meat sliced from "Chicken Little," a colossal (building sized), pulsating, quivering, artificially grown chicken heart.
Although the Space Merchants was intended as black humor, I was captivated by the idea of growing meat as easily as we grow vegetables, fruits, and grain in hydroponics greenhouses. It was incidental to the story, which was a satire on the world of advertising; but it was seared, seared in my memory.
All of this relates to the greatest promise of stem-cell research and cloning research: if we can grow specific body parts of humans from cells taken from the patient himself, there is almost no limit to what diseases, conditions, or injuries we can cure -- other than death itself. (And even that may fall within our lifetimes; the definition keeps getting narrower and narrower.)
Can we grow a human pancreas, to replace one lost to pancreatic cancer, without having to grow an entire human? Can we grow a chunk of brain tissue for a person who lost part of his brain to head trauma or Alzheimer's disease?
How about this: Can we grow a chunk of brain tissue to surgically implant into a healthy person to make him smarter? If that thought terrifies you -- you're reading the wrong blog!
And to wrench ourselves back to the topic, can we grow a living leg of lamb without having to grow an entire lamb? And if so, then minor distribution questions aside (whose solution may require invasion and regime change around the entire "Non-Integrating Gap," as Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the undeveloping world in the Pentagon's New Map), then why can't everybody in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, India, and China eat fresh meat morning, noon, and night, every day of the week? (If they develop cholesterol problems, we can sell millions of prescriptions of Lipitor.)
To borrow even more from Barnett, consider this question: As we construct the new "rule sets" for the post-9/11 world, the most urgent task is to integrate the entire world into what he calls the "Third Globalization"... which should be done by force, if necessary, as it is precisely those countries and territories that isolate themselves from the rest of the world that become breeding grounds for extremism, terrorism, and jihad.
Does that mean we must simply begin supplying such "Frankenmeat" to the Non-Integrating Gap, no matter what the local governments have to say about it? I say Yes; and if Zaire, Zimbabwe, and Nepal don't like it -- they can go boil an owl. Or some artificial owl meat.
(Did I mention you can use this technique to make meals out of endangered species without endangering even a single individual of that species? For that matter, you could use it to grow human flesh to peddle to cannibals, weaning them off "long-pig" on the hoof.)
The world can no longer tolerate mass stupidity on such a genocidal scale: just as we should never again tolerate a holocaust like what the Nazis did in Germany (or what the Tutsis and Hutus did in Rwanda-Burundi)... we should also no longer tolerate mass starvation in order to save the face of some isolationist, totalitarian, Marxist or sharia state. It is too much to ask of the rest of us to put up with gross, catastrophic incompetence and indifference.
Free Chicken Little! And have a heart, guys... on me.
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