Ingredients Pulses Uncategorized: British Fava beans Hodmedods
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Yesterday I cooked lunch for a vegetarian friend, Sue. I find cooking dishes with only a little meat in, even just bone stock, far, far easier than genuinely vegetarian food. A single rasher of bacon, or maybe even two, transforms my what’s left in the fridge quiche and hedge garlic soup from rather bland fare into something a great deal better.
But Sue is a strict vegetarian, so it was time to do a little thinking. Earlier this week I received an exciting parcel, inspired by Nick Saltmarsh of Hodmedod’s Great British Peas and Beans talk at The Aldeburgh Food and Drink Conference the other week. They are planning to put audio files of the talks, along with copies of the slides, on the website soon, including Mrs Ermine talking (or was it ranting <blush>?) about The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm. I’ll keep you posted here when that happens as there was lots of interesting stuff that day.
But back to the beans. Nick is a thoroughly nice chap, down to earth and genuinely passionate about local food.
First of all, hats off to Nick Saltmarsh and team for an absolutely beautiful design for the packaging. It appears that dried pulses have an image problem in the UK. Nick explains that when he first approached exporters to buy a tonne of British fava beans they almost wet themselves laughing. I think he put it a lottle more delicately than that, but you get the gist. Nick and co persisted, and Hodmedods was born.
You see, the vast majority of British grown fava beans are exported, notably to Egypt, where they are very popular. Yet they are a very traditional food in the UK, eaten as far back as the iron age. But they became the food of the poor, and in recent times fell out of fashion as a result. I bought a 20 kg sack from a farmer friend a couple of years ago. They were stunningly cheap, in truth, unrealistically cheap given the work it took Glenn to bag them up and get them to me. And I’m afraid my weakness as a vegetarian cook was exposed in full. I tried burgers: Mr Ermine all but turned up his snout. I tried a bean casserole: he wouldn’t even touch it. Glenn’s lovely wife Jeanie did cook up some delicious dishes from them, and I really should have just asked her for a recipe or two, but I’m afraid my courage failed me and I sold my beans on to the local Ripple Food Coop. I heard that people there were making delicious things from them…
So when I heard Nick speak about his British pulses at Aldeburgh I vowed to try again. Especially when I heard that his products come with recipe leaflets! One of the problems with my orignal fava bean exploits concerned their very tough skins, which would remain tough after the bean flesh had turned to mush. The burgers were rendered almost acceptable by putting the cooked beans in a blender before frying in plenty of fatty breadcrumbs, and adding…. you guessed it… bacon.
So enter the split, skinned fava beans from Hodmedods. Skinning the dried beans is an inspired idea, and I decided that my British Bean experimentation would begin there. I made a soup, shamelessly inspired by the Hodmedod team’s parsnip and split fava bean soup.
Now, every wise reader of Simple Living in Suffolk knows that you don’t eat parsnips before the first frost, which makes them sweeter, and that time has yet to arrive in Suffolk. So I cooked leek and fava bean soup. Mr Ermine deemed it good, which is high praise indeed for vegetarian food from my committed omnivore mustelid husband.
Before I give you the recipe, let’s look at the price. The multipack of five mixed packs of pulses shown above costs £12.50 at time of writing, including postage and packaging. At £4.17/kilo this is clearly considerably more expensive than (for example) my recent purchase of haricot beans from my local Indian grocers: £2.29 for 2 kilos (£1.15/kilo). But you get variety, and most of all, instructions in adorable little recipe booklets, and it all comes in encouragingly cute little packets.
But Hodmedods have catered for the Mrs Ermines of this world. They offer a catering pack of 12.5 kilos of split dried fava beans for £19.50, again including free postage and packing. This works out as a very reasonable £1.62/kilo. I am impressed. No only do you save yourself the trouble of going to the shop and lugging the beans home, you also have the satisfaction of knowing that they are, if not strictly local, at least not shipped in from some remote corner of the world. And if you wish to choose organic, you can, at £22.50 for 12.5 kilos, working out at a perfectly acceptable £1.80/kilo. Other pulses come down to an even more reasonable £1.2/kilo (whole dried yellow peas), and the whole range suggest a host of cooking adventures to be reported here in weeks to come.
Split Fava Bean and Leek Soup: Ingredients
- A couple of onions (from your local Indian Grocers)
- 250g Hodmedods split dried fava beans.
- Proper sea salt.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- A good sized leek.
- A couple of sprigs of rosemary.
- Some dried sage.
- A couple of bay leaves.
- Cold water.
- Butter for frying.
- Soured cream/creme fraiche (optional).
- Roughly chop the onion and leek, and gently fry in a large saucepan in a generous amount of butter for ten minutes or so.
- Add the dried beans and cook for a couple of minutes while stiring.
- Add all the other ingredients except the sour cream. Add plenty of water as the beans will absorb lots of it.
- Bring to the boil and simmer until the beans are soft. This doesn’t seem to take long, and if you are in a rush you can use a pressure cooker.
- Once it is all cooked blend it with a stick blender, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche/soured cream if you feel like it (I did).
If you grow your own leeks & herbs, buy your onions in bulk and buy catering packs of the dried split fava beans this is a very cheap meal indeed.
Drinks Ingredients Philosophy Suffolk Coast: calf at foot dairy raw milk
It has been a busy week. Not only the usual work of working on, and organising The Oak Tree Farm, but also preparing for the annual farm tour, not not mention preparing my talk about the farm for the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Conference. All in all, one of those weeks when I had more enthusiasm than time, and my weakness for Chinese Takeaways was pushed to the limit. How can anyone resist crispy shredded beef for breakfast (I usually keep it overnight it as I prefer it cold early morning)?
But, Dear Reader of Simple Eating in Suffolk, I resisted. And this is really thanks only to one woman: Fiona Provan of the Calf at Foot Dairy.
I’d been drinking Fiona’s grass fed cows’ milk, unpasturised, unhomogonised and absolutely delicious, for a few weeks when I was fortunate enough to go and see her about buying a couple of beef cattle. Fiona is, in short, a force of nature. This lady got a group of interested, Bank-Holiday-Monday chilled group of tourists visiting the Suffolk Punch Centre where her herd is based in for a milking demo. She sat them down comfortably, and proceeded to give a monologue about the current state of the food system. I was gobsmacked, and impressed.
It was one of the most coherent and passionate rants about the blooming mess we have all gotten ourselves into that I have ever heard, with the (new to me) insight that the milk most of us drink is from depressed cows that have had their calves taken away. I gave a round of applause at the end and started hawking her milk to the punters on her behalf. I hadn’t met her before – I hope she’ll have me back!
Please do not in any way let this put you off going to see a milking demo at the Calf at Foot Dairy. Go, and enjoy the ride… then buy a whole load of this lady’s milk and rose veal. You won’t regret it.
Which brings me back to my busy week. So what did save me from that Chinese Takeaway, which, with all due respect to the local purveyors of such delicacies, would have left me bloated, flatulent (lucky Mr Ermine!) and lacking in energy? Not to mention twenty quid lighter. It was raw, un-messed-about-with milk from Fiona’s ladies. A pint of her milk leaves me feeling full of energy, no longer hungry and a great deal less poor than the alternative. I am a well known caffeine addict, and I woke early this morning after a bad night’s sleep. Straight onto a glass of milk, I feel full of beans and I haven’t touched the coffee yet. This is unheard of for me in the mornings!
Uncategorized: Interview Radio Suffolk
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I’ve just added a link to my interview with Lesley Dolphin on Radio Suffolk last Friday to this page about our upcoming “Nose to Tail” Cookery Course on Sat 14th September. There are still a few place left so do book your place now, it would be lovely to do some cooking with you!
Philosophy: jack munroe poverty
Typically I wake earlier than Mr Ermine, and this morning was such a day. I lay in bed idly thinking about transforming my many ponderings on food of the last few weeks into a post. This blog that is all too easily neglected due to the heavy workload at The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm.
Yesterday, would you believe it, saw a stoat attack on the chick coop which led to a day of getting into the mindset of a stoat, then sourcing materials to fix up the chick house to be stoat-proof. Hopefully. When we suggested a trap to Mr Ermine he just looked bleak and said “would it kill it?” He doesn’t look tearful very often, but at that point it was close. So, no trap. How could we? Just a whole lot of fine weave netting and a heady electric fence current. I truly hope the chick survivors of the previous night’s attack are still there this morning.
As I lay in bed listening to Mr Ermine’s gentle snores, I thought about Jamie Oliver’s comments about the poor with a big telly and eating cheesy chips. I have timidly tackled the subject of poverty and food here before, but Mr Oliver’s comments reminded me of Radio 4′s “The Food Programme” a few weeks back which featured Jack Monroe’s blog A Girl called Jack. This lady, justifiably, is receiving a lot of attention for her blog about living on a very low food budget. It does make for pretty sobering reading. And she was never going to be on a low budget for long given she can write like this in response to Jamie O.
I claim to write about “Creating Good Food For Less in the Modern World”. But mine is a very specific version of the modern world.
For a brief stint recently I worked for the Environmental and Community Charity Groundwork who, among other things, work with people often referred to as “disadvantaged”. I cringe at that word, it just sounds so patronising. I personally spent my time at Groundwork organising tree planting days and trying to resolve a dispute over some proposed new allotments in town an hour drive from here. Not really cutting edge stuff. But one day I got some idea of what people might be trying to get at with the word “disadvantaged”. I was chatting with a colleague about why people get into debt traps, or so short of money they can’t buy food. I mentioned how money little I have lived on in the past, but I had managed, eating well, albeit simply, and warm enough in my single heated room. He just looked at me, kindly, and said, “but, Mrs E, you’re educated”. It was said gently and sincerely. I cringed again, but I knew he must be onto something.
It strikes me that Jack Monroe must be “educated” too, what ever “educated” means. She saw some pretty bleak stuff, but she coped admirably and is now building a writing career on the back of it. Good for her, but clearly not everyone does this. My colleague had worked at the cutting edge, with people who were really struggling, and who didn’t have many options. I was out of my depth. No, I don’t know what that is like, and I don’t want to pretend I do. Maybe some of my ideas on cooking cheaper cuts of meat, and I mean really cheap like offal and pigs heads, could be useful for people who in some financially challenging situations. Maybe not. Particularly if the electricity is off.
So I present this blog for what it is: an insight on how I make the very best of a modest, but steady, and certainly not poverty-level, food budget. I can afford to buy in bulk. I have a (small) freezer, and a covered log store where I can dry salted meat. I have access to fabulous fresh food from the farm. The electric doesn’t go off, and neither does the gas. And I am “educated”? What does that mean exactly? Is it anything like my favourite definition of intelligence, “the ability to adapt to your environment”, I wonder?
Drinks Fermented Ingredients: kefir moo man raw milk
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We’re lucky, here in Ipswich, to have the good people of Foulger’s Dairy who deliver unpasturised, raw milk, to the doorstep.
This milk comes from The Calf at Foot Dairy which looks just great. It isn’t cheap at £2.50 per litre (inlcluding delivery) but then this is proper food, carefully produced. So it only seems dear if you compare it with the sort of rubbish I normally buy. I am really, really thrilled to be able to buy this milk, and it is a delight to find two litres on my doorstep on a Wednesday morning.
The milk tastes great on its own, but having raw, full fat, unhomogenised milk is the perfect excuse for fermentation adventures. While I think of it, homogenisation is supposed to be a very bad thing indeed, I am told. The milk is passed through a tiny nozzle to break the fat up into minute globules which then pass directly from the gut to the bloodstream. And pasturisation is pretty bad too, denaturing the milk and creating a clean microbial slate for all sorts of nasties to develop in.
The week following my first delivery I joined an outing with friends from The Oak Tree Farm to see the film The Moo Man, and we were lucky enough to have a question and answer session with the directors and the Moo Man himself (Stephen Hook) afterwards. I recommend The Moo Man.
It is a gentle film that offers a real insight into the challenges of producing real food while trying to make a living from it. The energy and determination of the farmer is quite incredible So £2.50 for real milk, including delivery, is really very good value when you think about it. Better for me, better for the cows, and, I hope, better for the farmer Fiona Proven, too.
The fridge is absolutely full of pork from my lastest share of pork from the Acorn Antics Ipswich Pig Club. Which means that I had to find a bottle that would fit in the fridge door for my fermented milk creation, kefir (of which more in a future post). The only bottle I had to hand was an empty vodka bottle from making cassis (again, the subject of a future post). So just to be clear, the pictures below are my fermented milk “kefir” not the milk as it is delivered. Kefir has divided opinion here at Ermine Towers. I think it is just great, better even than Kombucha. Mr Ermine, however, simply won’t touch the stuff. Though he will eat my home made cheese (I must post about that too!)
Fermented Recipe: bread sourdough
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Ever since my recent trip to The Pump Street Bakery I’ve been meaning to make sourdough bread. It isn’t hard, it is cheap, and it doesn’t even take very long. There is a delay involved, like with all fermented foods, but you don’t actually need to do anything during that time. To make sourdough bread you need a sourdough starter. This is a bubbly mix of natural wild yeasts, flour and water. The easiest way to obtain this is to ask a friend who has some. It isn’t hard to make a starter yourself either, though it does take a week or so. If you can’t be bothered with either of these, or don’t want the faff, or have to ask a favour, then by all means buy a starter – it’ll cost you about a fiver from ebay.
My heroes Sandor Elix Katz and Sally Fallon, both enthusiasts of naturally femented foods, explain the many benefits of eating proper sourdough bread over commercial bread that has generally been produced with either a very short fermentation period, or none in these two fine, and often refered to, books here on Simple Eating in Suffolk:
Indeed there is some suggestion that the rocketing levels of gluten/wheat intolerance are due to our new found habit of eating grains that haven’t been through a slow fermentation. All I know is that sourdough tastes better than regular bread.
Ingredients for Two Small Whole Meal Sour dough Loaves
- ½ pint sourdough starter . Ensure that your sour dough starter is active and bubbling.
- 1 ½ pints whole wheat bread (hard) flour. You can use a mix of wheat and rye flour too.
- ½ tablespoon proper salt.
- Approximately ½ pint water. If your tap water is heavily chlorinated, leave it to stand exposed to the air for an hour or so first.
- Butter for greasing tins.
Equipment for Making Sourdough Bread
- Two small loaf tins are ideal, but you can use any thin walled, high sided, oven proof dishes if you don’t have loaf tins. You don’t actually need all the fancy baskets etc sold for this purpose.
- A firm, clean surface for kneading the dough.
- Bowl and spoon for mixing.
How to Make Sour dough Bread
- Mix the starter, salt and flour in a bowl, add a little of the water . Stir to combine.
- Add more of the water until you have a soft, pliable dough that is easy to knead. The amount of water required varies a great deal, depending on the moisture content of your flour.
- Once the mixture is reasonably smooth, turn it out onto a clean surface.
- Knead for ten minutes with your clean hands. Stretch, fold and pummel the dough, adding a little water if the mixture becomes too dry, or a little flour if the mixture becomes too wet and sticky.
- Grease your loaf tins, or other oven proof dishes, with the butter.
- Divide the dough into two pieces, shape each piece to fit a loaf tin, and push into the tin, firming into the corners.
- Cover the tins with a damp tea towel to prevent the dough from drying out.
- Leave the loaves to “prove” or rise in a warm, but not hot, place such as the top of the refrigerator. The loaves should at least double in size. The time taken depends a great deal on your sourdough starter – this is a natural process and so is subject to the whims of nature! Six hours is typical, but it can take as much as 12 hours.
- Heat your oven to very hot: gas mark 9, 240°C, 475°F.
- Use a sieve to dust a little flour over your loaves; this prevents the crusts from drying out too much during making.
- Bake your loaves for fifteen minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to hot hot: gas mark 6, 200°C, 400°F for a further half an hour.
- Remove one of the loaves from the oven, tap the base of the tin hard to remove the loaf. Knock the base of the loaf with your fingers as if it were a door. If it sounds “hollow” it is ready, otherwise put back in the oven for a little longer.
- Remove loaves from tins, place on a cooling rack and leave to cool.
As the name suggests, sourdough tastes, well, sour – but pleasantly so. With a little butter and gooseberry jam it is really quite excellent. Don’t be discouraged if your first efforts aren’t great – keep experimenting.
Drinks Flowers Recipe Wild food: cordial elderflower
The elderflower season is upon us, and I personally love going out to gather the flowers for wine and cordial. Oddly, I don’t drink much of either: I avoid too much sugar, so I don’t drink much of the cordial. My elderflower wine is very strong, yet is also very moreish, and I have no great wish to repeat the experience of the day after drinking too much of it. But both are enjoyed by friends, particularly at The Oak Tree Farm parties, so it is well worth making good quantities of both wine and cordial each year.
First of all, make sure you know what elderflower looks like. Pick flowers that have just opened, if possible.
That one is the pocket version of this classic book – there is a bigger one too.
Collect your flowers, cutting the stalk as close to the flower head as possible. Ideally you’ll choose a warm, windless day when the flowers are at their most fragrant, but life isn’t always that organised, so at least avoid collecting them in the rain. Some people advise cutting the flowers of the little branching stalks just before making the cordial – I can’t be bothered and the end result seems good despite this. Recipes vary, this is the one I have used with success. The ingredients are cheap, and it is simple.
I used citric acid rather than lemons as it is more convenient, and cheaper if you shop around and buy it in bulk. It is readily available online, and cheaper than buying it in a home brew supply shop in my experience. This is just an example, but the price seems reasonable.
I usually make multiples of this amount as it isn’t much more work to make more, and it is always popular, including making nice, inexpensive, gifts.
- 1.2 litres of water
- 85g citric acid
- 1.8kg sugar – plain ordinary white cheap sugar
- 20 elderflower heads
Yes – that is a whole lot of sugar, but you are going to dilute the end result, so it isn’t quite as bad as it looks.
- Mix the sugar and water in a large pan.
- Bring to the boil slowly, stirring regularly to fully disolve the sugar.
- Once the syrup has boiled through, take off the heat and stir in the elderflowers and citric acid.
- Stir well to help infuse the flavours, and to fully incorporate the citric acid.
- Cover the pan with a lid or cloth to keep flies out.
- Leave to infuse and then cool. I leave it a full 24 hours.
- Pour into sterilised glass bottles. I do this simply by using a home brew steriliser (see above), then rinsing the bottles out with boiling water just before filling.
- Make sure anything that comes into contact with the cordial at this stage (e.g. funnels and lids) is sterilised and rinsed with boiling water. It is unlikely to go off with that amount of sugar, but why take any chances?
- Seal the bottles, & label them (you will forget when you made it). If you have an odd bit left over just put it in the fridge and use it first.
To drink, dilute to taste.
Dear Readers of Simple Eating in Suffolk,
You are invited to join me and my pal, professional ex-chef, Lesley Bennett for a “Nose to Tail” cookery course this September!
It would be lovely to meet you!
Ingredients Recipe: breakfast hash browns
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The other morning I was wandering around the Ermine Towers kitchen, feeling hungry, and wondering what to do with the rather limited selection of ingredients at my disposal for a fry-up breakfast. Not enough eggs to make it worth while frying them, no bread for toast… it was all looking a bit spartan.
A quick trip to the local coop in my usual thrifty mood brought home some free range sausages (the coop are good for this sort of thing for a reasonable price) and a special offer box of cheapo mushrooms. I spilt the pack of sauasages into three sets of two sausages each, and froze two of them for another such morning.
All that was needed now was some hash browns, which are pretty splendid breakfast food.
Now you can buy hash browns frozen for about £1.43 a kilo from Britain’s most popular food retailer, but I personally don’t fancy sunflower oil in my hash browns, nor do I think that dried potato or dextrose should be in there. No, here at Ermine Towers, we make our own hash browns. They certainly won’t be dearer, and I strongly suspect they will be considerably cheaper. And better. And they really don’t take any time or effort.
Hash Brown Ingredients
- Onion (from your local Indian Grocers)
- Proper sea salt
- an egg or two
- Proper fat for frying.
Hash Brown method
- Peel and grate the potatoes. You really need a food processor for this.
- Squeeze excess water out of the grated potatoes. It is worth putting a bit of effort into this – I just use clean hands.
- Add finely chopped onion, salt, pepper and an egg or two, and mix well. The mix will be a little watery, but not excessively if you squeezed the spud enough in step 2.
- Heat a generous amount of frying fat in a pan.
- Form the mix into balls and flatten into the frying fat.
- Cook on a reasonably high heat for a bit, then reduce the heat.
- Turn, and repeat: a high heat for a bit then reduce until cooked through.
Philosophy: GM Monsanto Owen Paterson
by Mr Ermine
Dear Readers of Simple Eating in Suffolk.
My food blog is a “spouse” site to my husband, Mr Ermine’s blog Simple Living in Suffolk. The other morning we were enjoying our usual copious morning coffee when Mr Ermine started up on what can only be termed a rant about GM Food. I run a community farm www.the-oak-tree.co.uk that doesn’t entertain the idea of growing such crops, and I enjoyed his rant, so I asked him to write a guest blog for you good people. I hope you enjoy it!
PS My mustelid spouse speaks from here on…
Our very own stooge for the GM industry, Environment minister Owen Paterson is telling us we need to stop our tiresome objection to GM. Do it for the children.
“Government, industry, the scientific community and others owe a duty to the British Public that GM is a safe, proven, and beneficial innovation.”
Now I personally don’t feel thet GM is stupendously hazardous to the environment – after all the good people of the United States have been guinea-pigs for the last 20 years. There are some problems with super-weeds, but most of the issues aren’t to do with the technology, it’s how it is used, and who gains power over who. It’s the ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ issue. In the right hands the technology might be okay. It’s the lawyers and the money-men I’m scared of, particularly when they are in control of the basic necessities of life. Y’know, like eating…
Now I may have become cynical in my old age, but whenever I hear people saying do it for the children I raise my snout, sniff the air, my fur and whiskers bristle and I start looking for a rat, because soeone is trying to use an emotive appeal to pull a fast one. Let’s take a look at Owen’s argument
At this very moment there are one billion people on this planet who are chronically hungry. Are we really going to look them in the eye and say “We have the proven technology to help, but the issue’s just too difficult to deal with, it’s just too controversial”?…It is our duty to explore technologies like GM because they may hold the answers to the very serious challenges ahead.
Can’t argue with that, eh? Well, yes I can, Owen. Life isn’t that simple. We have enough food in the world, but it isn’t evenly distributed, which is why we in the West are getting fat while others starve. This is economics, and Owen claims he’s for a science-based view of things let’s take a look at one, over here on Gap-minder where you can see what is really happening over time.
Basically, humanity over time is getting both richer and living longer, and this hasn’t gone into reverse of late. Inequality is rising in the West because companies have a larger pool of global workers to call on, but we aren’t all starving, and things are getting better, despite Europe’s recalcitrant objection to GM. Owen’s claptrap begs the obvious question, too. We’ve had 20 years of GM technology in the hands of the richest nation on earth, and Americans aren’t slouches when it comes to applied technology. They’ve also got a long philanthropic tradition. If GM really were the answer to feeding the poor, then surely Oxfam or someone whould have persuaded Bill Gates or Warren Buffet to kick-start the proces. Or even, perhaps, a government in one of these countries with so many starving?
In a theoretical and intellectual way it could be done. But look at all the legalistic claptrap around Golden Rice – nice idea, in principle. We can see that the bad-faith limitations of the licensors in the litany of restrictions like the US$10,000 earnings limit on farmers using the knowledge. Not to mention all the assignment of development rights to the license holders- the message is basically “There is no developed-world use of this that we know of. But if you find one, then heaven-forbid you get to benefit from it.” Just as well the first domesticator of wild grass to wheat didn’t crave that sort of power, eh?
Owen is right that a lot of the initial hooh-hah about GM was concer on its safety. This Nature paper showed that there are issues, but not as bad as was feared. It’s also about choice. We don’t charge about demanding that vegetarians eat meat – we have a Vegetarian Society to help them avoid it using labelling. We accept that some communities have different restrictions like kosher and halal, and allow these groups to exercise their free choice with labelling or streaming the supply chain. We don’t say “we know better than you” and refuse them the information they need to adhere to their dietary preferences. There were very good reasons for the religious prohibition on pork where both religions originated. We don’t go round saying that since the advent of refrigeration and the fact that most of Northern Europe is cold and the original issues no longer apply, these restrictions are groundless and we are entitled to demand to add pork to things willy-nilly. We jolly well respect the right of people to choose what they wish to eat. Well, unless we are Big Food. It isn’t just GM they’d prefer people eat, the irrational objection to horseflesh got in the way of cost cutting so they went what the hell anyway. Big Food doesn’t like quailing to the sensibilities of it’s customers where it gets in the way of making a quick buck.
Britain is a rich country. If for cultural reasons we don’t like GM, we can afford to reject it. If GM assists other countries, well we aren’t treating GM like controlled drugs and sending bombers to destroy GM crops in other people’s countries.
Here’s the real reason, Owen, that I don’t like GM. It is because it concentrates power in the patent owners’ hands, and these patent owners have already shown bad faith in many ways, through suing American farmers like Bowman. The problem with GM isn’t that it’s going to kill us all. It is that it concentrates power, monopolistically. GM firms are using the expensive process of GM to get themselves to sole supplier position with monopoly control of the essentials of life.
Now monopoly control of the movie industry, for instance, is bad, but you can live without movies. The takeover of the American Food and Drug enforcement by GM interests shows that GM companies will stop at nothing to seize control of the food system. For illustration, let me take Exhibit A, Michael R Taylor, Deputy Commisioner for Foods at the FDA, a job created specifically for him. Let’s take a look at where he came from, shall we? Hidden in plain sight at the end of that is the fact that this dude started off as a lawyer and was
vice president for public policy, Monsanto Company
Now I smell a lot of rat here. I am opposed on principle to the revolving door between companies and Government regulators – I am of the opinion that if you have ever worked for a company you should not be permitted to be employed by a Government department with oversight of that industry. Indeed, I’m suprised that they use the past tense, to be honest, because to me it sounds like he is still responsible for public policy on behalf of the Monsanto Company. Even if it’s Uncle Sam’s signature on his paycheck.
It’s just like that room full of guns. It isn’t going to hurt anybody, as long as there aren’t any people in here with bad intent. Same for GM – it’s not inherently bad. It is when it is compounded with lawyers, money, and favourable stooges in Government that it gets dangerous to the rest of us. It’s the concentration of power that I fear, because it’s really hard to give up eating. There’s a simple answer to that. Make GM research open source and public knowledge, non-patentable by design. After all, we’re only thinking about the chillun, Owen, it’s not like we insert our laywers and directors of public policy into the Government of the richest nation on earth and suddely find that he who pays the piper gets to call the tune, is it? It’s the children we’re thinking of, remember the little children. Open source, accessible to all, unencumbered by licenses and patents, it’s humanitarian GM, innit? For some reason that’s never happened. Can’t think why…
Owen Paterson is a rich landowner in Shropshire (by marriage into the Ridley Estate – see this Country Life puff piece), and it isn’t surprising that he favours GM – it will no doubt make him richer. But that doesn’t mean that the serfs have to go along with it.