The implications of GMO are very simply terrifying

Eurotoque Ireland has joined the long list of organisations which support the campaign for a GM-free Ireland.
Eurotoques are the European Association of Chefs who are primarily concerned with supporting the producers of the best foods in Europe and thus maintaining the fine quality and flavour of our ingredients. They wish to maintain the traditional dishes and traditional ways of preparing and cooking foods of the regions of Europe.

Eurotoques as an organisation has taken a vigorous anti-GMO stance. ‘The prospect of genetically modified crops being released into our environment is possibly the most worrying development yet in the agri-food world and one which may have far reaching effects on all aspects of food, health and the environment’.

They have urged their members to take various initiatives to heighten awareness and to support the anti GMO campaign.

So what is a GMO – a genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant, animal or micro-organism whose genetic code has been altered in order to give it characteristics that it does not naturally have. GMO’s normally include a combination of DNA from viruses and bacteria together with DNA from other plants and/or animals. These infect the modified organism with completely novel combinations of genes, proteins and allergens whose long-term health and ecological impacts are scientifically impossible to predict. Scientific evidence shows that GMO seeds and crops can be genetically unstable, have led to massive crop failures, create superweeds, and can never be recalled after their release. Insurance companies refuse to cover the risks.
GMO seeds and crops are normally patented by transnational agri-biotech corporations which charge farmers an annual licensing fee to grow their GM seeds. Monsanto typically requires farmers to sign onerous contracts which prohibit them from saving and replanting the GM seeds, oblige them to waive their human right to freedom of speech (e.g. by talking to the media) if anything goes wrong, and waive their right to sue the biotech company if the crops fail to perform as expected. Monsanto has filed hundreds of patent infringement lawsuits against farmers whose fields have been contaminated by GMOs.

There are many documented cases of cross contamination of conventional and organic farms as a result of wind-borne pollen drift, seed dispersal by insects, animals and humans, and by the process of horizontal gene transfer through which transgenic DNA is carried across species boundaries by microbial organisms. This, according to Michael O’Callaghan coordinator of GM Free Ireland Network, creates superweeds, reduces biodiversity and threatens human, animal and plant health by releasing new allergens and genes for pesticide production and antibiotic resistance that could spread to humans, crops, livestock and wildlife including bees and other beneficial insects.
The introduction of GMO animal feed, seeds, crops anywhere on the island of Ireland — whether through deliberate legal release or contamination — would give transnational agri-biotech companies like Monsanto patented ownership of Irish farmers’ seeds and crops. It would burden farmers and food producers with more red tape, restrict our access to EU export markets, and ruin our reputation as Ireland - the food island.

Food containing GMO’s has been on the shelves of our shops and supermarkets, some labelled and some not, for over 10 years now.

Farmers confirm that almost all animal feed contains genetically modified soya, organic feed is guaranteed GMO free-. According to the FSAI, meat from animals fed on GMO is not required to be labelled.

In just a decade, agricultural transgenics has been transformed from a fledgling science into a dominant player in the world’s food supply, from almost zero acreage in the early 1990’s to more than 160 million acres worldwide in 2004. Already, 80% of the US soyabean crop is genetically modified and almost 40% of US corn, 25% of the world’s cotton, canola, corn and soyabean is now transgenic. At least 60% of processed food sold in supermarkets contains GM ingredients. Bio-technology allows scientists to cut and paste any gene from any plant or animal into any other plant or animal - this opens up a myriad of possibilities.

Already there are tomatoes with synthetic flounder ‘anti-freeze’ genes, rice with vitamin producing daffodil genes and much more – there are many unanswered questions and unpredicted results. 

In 2000 scientists at Purdue University in the US inserted a salmon growth promoter gene into a fresh water fish called medaka. The fish grew faster, had a mating advantage, but also a must higher mortality rate. Scientists calculated that if a mere 60 of these fish escaped into a wild population of just 60,000 they would result in local extinction in 40 generations – this was just a lab experiment, but it is important to understand the risks stressed Professor of Genetics at Purdue – Bill Muir.

There are many similar stories. Another particularly frightening episode was reported recently by environmental author John Robbins. When students at Oregon State university were testing a transgenic variant of soil bacteria - Klebsiella Planticola, the found that they had accidentally invented a fungus killer that had it escaped into the wild ‘could have ended all plant life on this continent.’

The implications are very simply terrifying. The bio-tech companies argue that GM crops produce higher yields and need less artificial pesticides and so help to feed the world. However, aid agencies have united to refute this claim and to point out that the principal cause of world hunger is distribution difficulties and local politics.

With such an imprecise science, we surely need to evoke the precautionary principle - the reality is that we cannot know what the long term effects of eating food containing GMO’s will be on animals and humans because there is no control group.

In the words of Dr. Ml Antoniou – Clinical Geneticist and senior lecturer in pathology at Guys Teaching Hospital in London - ‘Once released into the environment, unlike a BSE epidemic or chemical spill, genetic mistakes cannot be contained, recalled or cleaned up, but will be passed on to all future generations’.

So once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting him back in. We would be crazy from every point of view to go down this path in Ireland.

If we declare Ireland a GM free zone we will be able to tap into the growing market for certified GM free produce. Ireland the GM Food Island doesn’t quite have the same ring to it somehow.

Many EU Governments still hesitate to ban GMOs due to a US-led WTO dispute with the EC, but 100 regional and 3,500 sub-regional areas in 22 EU countries have already passed legislation which prohibits or restricts the release of GMO seeds and crops. Across the water, Cornwall, the Highlands of Scotland, the whole of Wales, and 22 Councils in the UK now have GM bans in place. The Assembly of European Regions (AER), Friends of the Earth Europe and a wide coalition of EU regional governments, local authorities and NGOs have launched a campaign for EC legislation that clearly recognises the democratic right of Regions (including Irish Counties) to declare themselves GMO-free. 

The GM-free Ireland Network will launch 1,000 local GMO-free zones throughout Ireland at 2pm on Earth Day, 22 April 2005. The objective is for organic and conventional farmers, hotels, restaurants, pubs, retailers, schools and homes North and South of the border to display GMO-free zone signs and simultaneously declare their lands and premises GMO-free. This goal may seem ambitious but already there are over 1,000 organic farmers in Ireland and the network now includes 53 organisations representing over 30,000 conventional and organic farmers, foresters, food producers / distributors / exporters, retailers, chefs, restaurants, Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs), professional associations, doctors, economists, lawyers, journalists, students, and consumers collaborating to keep GM food and farming out of Ireland.

For more information check out  and

Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise. Heat of over 50˚C will kill yeast. Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. White or brown sugar, honey golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle. The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1oz) yeast than with 25g (¾oz) yeast.

We use a stone ground wholemeal. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead - in fact it does not require kneading. The main ingredients - wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious. Yeast was one of the first commodities to be genetically modified, so seek out non-GM yeast.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker's yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.

Makes 1 loaf

450g (16oz) wholemeal flour OR
400g (14oz) wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) strong white flour
425ml (15floz) water at blood heat (mix yeast with 140ml (5floz) lukewarm water approx.)
1 teaspoon black treacle or molasses
1 teaspoon salt
30g (3/4oz -1oz) fresh non GM yeast
sesame seeds - optional
1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x 8inch) approx.
sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8.

Mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle with some of the water, 140ml (5floz) for 1 loaf and crumble in the yeast.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Grease the bread tins with sunflower oil. Meanwhile check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4 or 5 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top. 

When ready, stir and pour it, with all the remaining water, into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead. Put the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tins with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming. Just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop the loaves in the oven 230C/450F/gas mark 8 for 50-60 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises to the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges. 

We usually remove the loaves from the tins about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put them back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there's no need to do this.

Tofu in Spicy Coconut Sauce

Serves 4-6
1 tablespoon peanut or sunflower oil
1 small onion (4 oz approx.), thinly sliced
1 small green or red pepper, thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste
100ml (4 floz) canned unsweetened coconut milk
100ml (4 floz) water or Vegetable stock, well laced with fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 lb Chinese-style firm tofu, cut into ¾ inch cubes and fried (see below)
4 tablespoons coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons roasted chopped peanuts

Heat a wok, add the oil. When hot, add the onion, pepper and chiles and stir-fry for 

1-2 minutes. Add the curry paste, stir, then add the coconut milk, stock, salt and tofu. Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the tofu is heated through. Serve over rice or noodles garnished with coriander and chopped peanuts.

Golden Tofu

1lb Chinese-style firm tofu, cut into slabs about ¾ inch thick
2 tablespoons peanut or sunflower oil

Drain the tofu with kitchen paper. Cut into ¾ inch cubes. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat. Add the tofu and fry until golden. It will take several minutes to colour, so allow to cook undisturbed. Turn the pieces when golden. Drain briefly on kitchn paper, then transfer to a warm dish and season with salt. 

To simmer Tofu in liquid: cut into cubes, don’t bother to drain, then lower it into a pot of lightly salted simmering water or the vegetable stock Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon, drain briefly on kitchen paper. Serve warm or chilled or use with another recipe.

Foolproof Food

Ballymaloe Nut and Grain Muesli

This muesli bursting with goodness keeps in a screw top jar for several weeks. Measure the ingredients in cups for speed.
Serves 12

8 Weetabix
7 ozs (200g) oatmeal (Quaker oats or Speedicook oatflakes)
1½ ozs (45g) bran
2¼ ozs (62g) fresh wheatgerm
2¼ ozs (62g) raisins
2½ ozs (62g) sliced hazelnuts or a mixture of cashews and hazelnuts
2½ ozs (62g) soft brown sugar - Barbados sugar
2 tablesp. Lecithin* - optional – make sure it is non GM 

Crumble Weetabix in a bowl, add the other ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container. Keeps for 2-3 weeks in a cool place.

Serve with fresh fruit and fresh creamy milk.

*Available from Chemist or Health food shops - Lecithin comes from soya beans, it is rich in phosphatidyl Choline - an important nutrient in the control of dietary fat, it helps the body to convert fats into energy rather than storing them as body fat.
Hot Tips

Food & Wine Magazine –
April issue showcases Cork – Europe’s Capital of Culture – so many terrific places to eat, drink and shop for food.

Farmers Market at Cork Showground, Ballintemple, Cork – opening soon
For further information contact Teresa Murphy, 087-2363536 or email  

Want to buy some fruit or nut trees –
Woodkerne Nurseries, Gortnamucklagh, Skibbereen, Co Cork. Specialize in fruit and nut trees, grown on their organic farm. Available at Skibbereen Farmers Market on Saturdays 10-1 or by appointment at the nursery. Tel 028-23742  

New Aga and Fired Earth Interiors Showroom in Dun Laoghaire has just opened.
Will showcase a comprehensive range of brands from the Aga Group at the Clubhouse, 20 Lr. Georges St. Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Open Day at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on Saturday 28th May. Tel Irish Peatland Conservation Council for details 045-860133

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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