Sunday, January 15, 2012

Little Miss Muffet rewrites history while sitting on her tuffet, eating her gmo curds and whey

Remember Little Miss Muffet who sat on her tuffet (eating her curds and whey)?  As a child, I wondered what was she sitting on?  What's a tuffet?  I thought it was another word for butt but just today I learned that tuffet is a low stool.  Yep, I am still learning new things at 60.  Was I a dumb little kid?  Or did I just not care because curds and whey wasn't a food I knew?  Sounded pretty awful to me.  And when I learned it was cow's milk...well that really grossed me out.   Of course, you have to understand I have an aversion to cow's milk (I now know it is an food allergy, among the many I am collecting).  My mom switched me to orange juice when I was a baby because I seemed to have a problem with evaporated milk and karo syrup. Never got mommy's milk.  Mom said she didn't breastfeed me cause it didn't work for my older brother.  Wonder if I would be different, if I was a breastfed baby?   How did I survive?  Great genes?  Maybe I had the gene for orange juice?  Maybe my body knew I would eventually live in Florida?  Maybe it's the reason I moved to Florida?  The mysteries of life will never be unraveled.  A person's history is so easily rewritten by forgetfulness, wishful thinking, and sometimes outright lies.  So much like how countries rewrite history to suit the current politics.  Or how the biotech/food industries are rewriting their history.

Shall we talk about how food industry/biotechnology rewrites history?  Only someone my age who has been looking at this information since the 1990's can see the rewriting of history regarding our food technology.  I have been trying for the past 2 weeks to find an article I saw some years ago which gave a history of genetic engineering.  In that article I distinctly remember them stating that 1985 was the year that genetic engineering of enzymes went commercial.  Do you think I can find that article now?  Nope.  Is my memory fading fast as I age?  Maybe, but I have a pretty good memory for odd bits of information.  Of course I cannot remember my kid's birthdays and one of my children reminds me of that fact from time to time.  Red with embarrassment for being such a terrible mother, I sometimes remind her that I breastfed her.  I am hoping that will compensate for my memory loss of birthdays.

So one can wonder whether or not I really saw that little fact about enzymes being genetically engineered commercially in 1985 or is history being rewritten?  What I am finding now across the internet is the information that the FDA approved the first enzyme that was genetically engineered in 1990.  That enzyme was chymosin (rennet) used in the production of cheese, manufactured by Pfizer.  Yes, I see ears perking up. Pfizer is not only a drug company, but also in the past few years bought out the infant formula division of Wyeth.  Later on I found information that Chr. Hansen marketed the enzyme for Pfizer in 1989.

Chr. Hansen is a global supplier of cultures and dairy enzymes, probiotics and natural colors.  They describe their ingredients as "natural."  Yet they did market chymosin genetically engineered for Pfizer and still seem to be developing and marketing this genetically engineered enzyme.  Their website shows a video of a baby being bottlefed with formula that has probiotics.

The Pfizer patent on the genetic engineering of calf rennin was filed in 1984, published in 1990.  It was entitled, "Expression plasmids for improved production of heterologous protein in bacteria," patent number 4935370, inventor Arthur E. Franke, owned by Pfizer.  The bacteria they were using was e.coli.  In the US, it is near impossible to obtain a cheese made with the real enzyme (comes from a calf's stomach).  Our food coop tried some years back to obtain cheese that was not processed using the genetically engineered enzyme.  We could only find cheeses from Europe that were so costly (importing adding to the cost) that we gave up. 

One of the things I have learned from looking at patents and their filing dates and publication dates that once a big company files a patent it usually becomes a product in the market place.  So I would suggest to readers that the filing date of Pfizer suggests that this became commercial in all probability in late 1984 (October) or 1985.  Can a food product go into the market place before FDA approval?  It looks that way to me. So 1990 is the date when the FDA approved the first genetically engineered food product for humans.
("Gene-altered Item Approved by F.D.A.," by Martin Tochin, The New York Times, March 25, 1990)

"When genetic engineering was developed in 1973, it was recognized as a more efficient method of replacing an array of industrial processes, from plant breeding to animal husbandry to the development of new pharmaceutical products and bulk foods."

Why am I fixated on dates?  Most websites, even those opposed to genetically engineered foods, state that genetically engineered foods entered the marketplace in 1995 with the genetic modification of soybeans, corn. etc (food crops).  Yet the real truth is that at least 5 years previously (if you believe that 1990 is the date, I believe 1985 is the true date), genetically engineered foods entered in to marketplace in the form of a new enzyme.  This enzyme was manufactured with the pathogen e.coli.  Genetic engineers originally used e.coli because at that time it was known as a benign pathogen, not harmful.  Strange how that has changed over the years and now we know of people who die from a vicious form of e.coli.  I find it stranger that many people do not connect the new virulence of pathogens (antibiotic resistant--genetic engineering uses antibiotic resistant genes) to our new technology.  We just believe that it is a natural mutation.

It seems to me that if the public is kept in the dark about when genetic engineering happened, then it is easy to dismiss the issues of antibiotic resistance, more virulent pathogens as just normal mutations.  It's easy to fool the people, when you change history.  It's just minor variations of the truth, right?  Or is it?  Take for instance the argument I got into with a food safety expert (employed by industry and government) regarding Enterobacter sakazakii.  She states categorically that J.J. Farmer did not discover Enterobacter sakazakii, he just renamed it.  Yet a paper written in the International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology of July 1980 is entitled, "Enterobacter sakazakii:  a New Species of 'Enterobacteriaceae' Isolated from Clinical Specimens."  In this article from 1980, Farmer et al. state, "The proposed change in the classification of this organism is based on differences between E. cloacae and E. sakazakii in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)-DNA hybridization, biochemical reactions, pigment production, and antibiotic susceptibility."  This is renaming a species, not discovery?  Why would someone in industry refuse to accept that a new pathogenic species has emerged?  Was it natural mutation or have our food technologists created this nightmare in their labs?  By rewriting the history of E. sakazakii (we are being lead to believe that this organism existed in 1959), who benefits?  And who do you believe?  

So how important is the genetic engineering of some little enzyme, called chymosin?  Well, chymosin is used in the production of cheese.  One of the by-products of cheese production is whey.  Whey goes into infant formula.  In fact one of Nestle's selling points regarding its infant formula is that is 100% whey protein, other companies use less.  Whey is suppose to be easy for babies to digest.  

"Enzymes used in the processing of foods do not have to be listed on product labels because they are not considered foods."  from Genetically Engineered Enzymes see

"Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey, along came a spider and sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away."  Is there a moral to our childhood story?  Beware of hungry spiders? Let me see, I think I will rewrite that story...the genetically engineered spider, glowing in the dark saw Ms. Muffet because he had eaten his DHA for dinner last night....Ms. Muffet couldn't see the glowing spider....because she didn't eat last night....
Yeah, humor me....
Copyright 2012 Valerie W. McClain     

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