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It’s a part of my paleo fantasy, it’s a part of my paleo dream

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160 thoughts on “It’s a part of my paleo fantasy, it’s a part of my paleo dream

  1. BillyJoe says:

    BrewandFerment,

    “In Dec I bought 25 lbs of dark roast decaf from Coffee Bean Direct for just under $200 US including shipping”

    How much to ship to Mooroolbark, Australia?

  2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @Chris

    Cooks Illustrated (fhtagn!) has a recipe for flaky, foolproof pie dough that I’ve also made dozens of times, and produces a delicious, flaky crust, every time. There are two secrets – mixing the dough-flour paste with half the flour first, then adding the second half (causes alternating layers of dry-oily flour which bubble in the oven into separate layers – flakes!) and vodka (or any other high-alcohol content liquid, which adds fluid without adding water, thus no gluten, and also actually inhibits gluten formation).

    Though not a shill for Big Pharma, clearly I am a shill for America’s Test Kitchen (fhtagn!). I’m one of the middle-aged guys who couldn’t cook discussed in their recent NYT article :)

    @MTR

    You could try looking into the writings of Mark Lynas, a founder of the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s who recently gave a public speech admitting he was completely, totally, 100% wrong. Probably much shorter and possibly more convincing since he had to traverse such a large intellectual distance.

    @Afronaught

    In this sample, the non-HG group was noticeably unhealthier compared to the HG skeletons. (See http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/low-carb-diets/nutrition-and-health-in-agriculturalists-and-hunter-gatherers/) Although it’s still just a relatively small sample size (though larger than 5 or even 137), it lends some support to the paleo fantasy that perhaps what we suffer from are “diseases of civilization”?
    I’m still reading Zuk’s book on my e-reader, but so far I’m not finding any references that contradict the notion that hunter-gatherers suffered such “diseases of civilization” approximating the magnitude (i.e. not to say our ancestors suffered from NO diseases at all) we suffer from them today–though of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, especially with these kinds of studies.

    I don’t know if anyone has said that HG suffered from the same magnitude of “diseases of civilization” as we currently do (or even ancient farmers). The point is more that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is not a magical panacea that prevents all disease. You can’t “eat like a caveman” and magically be healed of all your ills, dying at the age of 126 after 125.5 years of perfect health. The “diseases of civilization” existed in the HG past (or there was potential they did, I’m looking at you type II diabetes), but they were of lower magnitude, less deadly and killed less often. At a certain point in their histories, HG were almost certainly better fed than farmers, but as I’ve discussed above, it was when they moved into a new environment when their populations hadn’t reached a saturation point. Once you hit the point at which you have too many people to live casually off of what food you can find, you either starve or start to farm. There’s probably a population “sweet spot” at which life is pretty good in a lot of ways. You just have to kill your offspring to stay there. Humans aren’t that forward-looking, particularly in HG days. There’s no conception of “OK, right now we’re fine, but given our current rate of population increase, in three generations we’ll reach the carrying capacity of all land we can comfortably walk to in a day, so we’d better start murdering babies”. Hell, where I live there’s outrage over female infanticide that doesn’t involve strangling a baby.

  3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Heh, so I guess what I’m saying is “What BrewandFerment said” :) The substitution is about 50% of the water for vodka or something equally high alcohol % (I think around 70 proof). I usually fudge on the amounts and add a little more to get it even more rolly-outy.

    @evopsygirl

    There are ideas worth investigating, such as the potential negative impact of certain factors associated with modern life on the body (e.g., refined sugar, sedentary, diets low in fiber and high in fat or protein).

    But anchoring them to mythic paleo ideas adds nothing. If you’re testing things empirically, the evolutionary history adds little more than a “just-so” story, one that ignores the significant impacts of post-HG history which itself had a tremendous impact.

    It’s entirely possible that, while we are capable of eating grains (only some humans can eat dairy), they provide less than optimal nutrition because they come packaged by nature with chemicals that are designed to make them inedible.

    Which, like many pro-paleo arguments do, ignores the fact that humans have been selectively breeding those traits out of their foods. Your comment about dairy ignores the fact that most of us can only drink dairy as adults because of evolutionary pressure to do so due to significant time spent by ancestors who were agriculturalists that raised cattle for milk. There’s no a priori reason to believe we can’t eat grains because we can’t handle the toxins. The human gut is a potent thing, and the human liver is too.

    I would be interested to know what you think of the physical anthropology data presented in Weston Price’s book which compares the results of indigenous diets to those of a modern diet that includes processed and refined carbohydrates.

    The Weston Price foundation is an ideological organization, not a scientific one. They’re not interested in any evidence that doesn’t support their pre-existing conclusions.

    The fact remains, our bodies spent a lot more of their evolutionary past in an environment that offered high-fiber plants, nuts, seeds, and wild animals with a nutritional profile (especially where fats and amino acids are concerned) that is utterly different from domesticated animals.

    But again, the gut is quite capable of disarticulating these foods, adaptation to a new environment (that of farming and agriculture) exerts its own tremendous pressure on human selection, and most of the foods we eat now have been heavily modified to be more nutritious and useful to humans over tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of years. You simply can’t eat like a hunter gatherer, that kind of food doesn’t exist anymore (certainly not in significant volumes).

    This is especially true when you considering we ate more organ meat in the past.

    Mmmm…gout…Also, we may have eaten more organ meat in the past, but in volume we still ate far more muscle. Not to mention, there is considerable evidence showing humans as scavengers, not hunters. We ate rancid meat and organs.

    Research supports we should be eating a plant-based diet with plenty of fiber and avoiding refined grains and excess sugar. It’s not far-fetched that evolutionarily novel foods can pose a risk to our health. You can find as many examples as you want of evolution moving quickly–our eating of cooked food is one of them–that doesn’t mean every member of the human race is adequately prepared for eating grains or dairy.

    Science already understands the risks of heavily processed foods, paleo is parasitic on those efforts, adding little more than a superficial, ill-thought-out pseudoscientific “just-so” story on top of that knowledge. And again, you’re ignoring the history of food. Either you go into “deep time” and the only foods we “should” eat are found in Africa, or different races shouldn’t eat foods from different continents – which is nonsense. Not to mention the significant amount of breeding of ancient foods to reach the point that they look like now.

    Also, one idea about human evolution is that cooking was a main and huge driver of Homo sapiens evolution.

    Furthermore all this talk of one example being meaningless is irrelevant as well. When it comes to health, we are not yet far enough along in our knowledge of the human body to apply the answer of statistical significance to every problem.

    Nope, but we sure can apply statistics to a lot of things. You seem to be arguing that because we don’t perfectly understand how all humans react to all foods, we can’t make any statements about anything. Which is nonsense.

    If someone makes a behaviorally sustainable dietary change that lowers his cholesterol or his weight, or helps him manage his blood sugar or pressure–if it has some measurable, positive impact on his health, who are we to dismiss that? I accomplished all of those things by eating a whole food diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, and seafood.

    Oh seafood! An incredibly paleo food (so long as you live next to a seacoast).

    If someone makes the decision to eat in accordance to the USDA food guide, which is what paleo diets are in large part, that’s great. If this imaginary person convinces themselves their diet is going to cure all their ills, they’re actually putting themselves at risk for nonscientific reasons. I hope you’re getting regularly tested for previous risk factors. I don’t dismiss eating a healthy diet, I dismiss the superficial, unscientific reasons people use to organize their diets, which can result in harms (and I like pointing out that their “scientific” reasoning is anything but, and not based on the actual “paleo” lifestyle in any way – you’re embracing an incoherent idea).

    That doesn’t mean the diet I ate in any way approximated what people in the Paleolithic era ate–they often starved, or over-ate, or found food with meager nutritional value as compared to the produce we have today. But it does mean we can achieve positive results by combining some of these concepts with a common sense approach that’s supported by research.

    So why call it “paleo”? Why not call it “following conventional dietary advice”? What’s different or unique? Whole fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, avoid processed foods…what is so uniquely “paleo”?

  4. mousethatroared says:

    Okay – “You could try looking into the writings of Mark Lynas, a founder of the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s who recently gave a public speech admitting he was completely, totally, 100% wrong. Probably much shorter and possibly more convincing since he had to traverse such a large intellectual distance.”

    WLU , So the message I’m getting – GMO is the first new technology that has absolutely no possible pittfalls. I heard similar claims when I first started working in ecommerce (before the tech bubble burst), from the guy who tried to sell us that exotic mortage and from one of international adoption agencies we spoke with (shortly before the country they specialized in shut down adoptions due to corruption concerns). Luckily, I didn’t believe them either. :)

    But then I am not anti-ecommerce, anti-mortage, anti-international adoption or anti-GMO, I just have a deep and abiding “hope for the best, plan for the worst” philosophy. You can not hope for the best unless you are willing to believe in the benefits that a change can bring. But, you can not plan for the worst unless you focus on finding the pitfalls of ANY product, system, technology.

  5. mousethatroared says:

    “So why call it “paleo”? Why not call it “following conventional dietary advice”?

    You have got to be kidding me, even without the context, the word Paleo just sounds cooler. USDA has the branding finesse of General Motors.

  6. the bug guy says:

    @mousethatroared

    Biotechnology is certainly not without problems and pitfalls. However, they do not match up very well with the common fears about gmo varieties currently in use.

    Transgenic technology is also not a panacea that will solve all of our agricultural problems. It is a powerful tool among many available to help us address the coming challenges in sustainably providing food for a growing world population.

  7. mousethatroared says:

    @the bug guy – Yes! that is the thing that concerns me. The majority of the concerns I hear about GMO are NOT valid. If I heard more intelligent discussion of real pitfalls and plans for dealing with them, I would feel much more comfortable with the process.

    …because, you know, I’m in charge of the world food supply and everyone comes to me for approval on these things. :)

    Also, thanks for your thoughts. You are very good at offering clarity to these discussions.

  8. kathy says:

    @WLU “you’re embracing an incoherent idea”. You said it – “incoherent” is the right word for this. It’s a big jumble sale of bits and pieces, all stuffed into one room and you can go and (cherry-)pick which bits you fancy buying into.

    There’s a lot more to real paleo diets than simplistic persons think … and the operative word here is “diets” not “diet”.

    @Mouse: it may be cool, but paleo lays claims that go beyond mere branding, they claim scientific backing. Not on.

    Anyone that’s watched a actual baboon foraging won’t fancy imitating its diet. I wonder what the nutritional value of scorpions and other assorted bugs is? And before you say, “A baboon is not a human”, anyone fancy a plateful of mopane worms? I know where you can buy them dried, if the shop still stocks them (bought them myself and ate – one).

  9. the bug guy says:

    @kathy

    Many insects have good nutritional value, though as you demonstrate, we tend not to find them palatable. ;)

  10. mousethatroared says:

    Kathy – Agreed, but the name “following conventional dietary advice” still pains my branding sensibilities. :)

  11. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    WLU , So the message I’m getting – GMO is the first new technology that has absolutely no possible pittfalls. I heard similar claims when I first started working in ecommerce (before the tech bubble burst), from the guy who tried to sell us that exotic mortage and from one of international adoption agencies we spoke with (shortly before the country they specialized in shut down adoptions due to corruption concerns). Luckily, I didn’t believe them either. :)

    Oh, of course not! GMO has risks (a personal favourite – Monsanto managed to breed single-generation crops whose seeds would not germinate, I had a wonderful post-apocalyptic scenario in mind in which humans managed to starve themselves to death due to pollination by non-germinating plants). But those risks tend to not be the ones envisioned by organic farmers and anti-corporate protestors. The risks, from what we can tell, are generally not cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome or autoimmunity. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of an example of an actual risk to human health due to GMO. Certainly you could engineer crops that contained viable smallpox particles, or were 50% cyanide or the like – but why would you? Again, corporations are greedy, not evil. There are definite pitfalls, regulation and testing is needed, there will be unintended consequences – but there are also tremendous benefits, staggeringly good ones at that (imagine a crop that could generate its own fertilizer, was immune to pests, produced a complete protein, contained small amounts of every single necessary nutrient, was salt, drought and flood-tolerant and delivered vaccines; we’re not there yet, but theoretically it is possible!).

    The thing is, these crops are studied by very, very smart people, and it is in their motivation to produce a safe, viable crop that meets a significant need. These people, far smarter than you or I, spend their days thinking about how they can make better plants and animals, what the implications of their changes are, and further – will publish their ideas for scrutiny by other, equally or even more smart people. Meanwhile, the spurious objections to GMO are often made by farmers justifiably concerned for their livelihood (who might be excellent farmers, but are probably not very good biochemists or geneticists), and knee-jerk corporate critics who don’t understand the science and aren’t interested in learning.

    There needs to be regulation, testing, oversight and whistleblowing legislation and protection. Government and scientists provide these things, not an amorphous mass of ill-informed protesters who cherry-pick the data. The world is getting more complicated, and I would give far more credence to the objections of a small number of experts than I would an enormous number of nonexperts.

    But then I am not anti-ecommerce, anti-mortage, anti-international adoption or anti-GMO, I just have a deep and abiding “hope for the best, plan for the worst” philosophy. You can not hope for the best unless you are willing to believe in the benefits that a change can bring. But, you can not plan for the worst unless you focus on finding the pitfalls of ANY product, system, technology.

    Who does your planning though? Or your hoping for that matter? I would say it should be experts, because most people don’t understand the true risks involved, the biology, science and technical objections.

    The Netherlands (I believe) has an interesting way of bridging the science-popular divide. They form a committee of citizens with no scientific training. They are then given an extensive briefing by scientists (I believe explicitly including “for” and “against” scientists at that) that extends over weeks. At the end, the committee makes a decision or policy for the government.

    And as for the potential pitfalls and whatnot, yes they must be studied. But as I mentioned above, one must also look at the benefits. The precautionary principle is based on possible harms, meanwhile GMO crops have the potential to address actual harms. For some crops, it genuinely can be a case of “someone might get cancer 40 years from now” versus “we have regular floods and droughts and it’s almost impossible to guarantee an adequate food supply for our citizens over a five-year span”. Or “200,000 children go blind from vitamin A deficiency, and it’s hard to regularly get enough vitamins to the areas where they are needed” versus “this breed of rice produces enough beta-carotene to prevent 199,000 of those cases of blindness”.

    Certainly not a simple problem, but it irks me that the objections raised have been examined and addressed already, often many times over, often decades in the past. It’s a profoundly helpful, amazingly productive technology with enormous potential that is rejected due to slogans (“Frankenfood!”) rather than the real evidence. An entire branch of science cast aside and vilified because organic farmers have good PR and the public is susceptible to the naturalistic fallacy. Obviously an oversimplification, but one that contains germs of truth.

  12. Guy Chapman says:

    Quality job, Dr. G. I have added this to the Wikipedia article on the paleo diet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet

  13. mousethatroared says:

    WLU – See you agree with me. You’re just afraid to admit it. ;)

    I’m love listening to experts and scientists. They are indeed the best ones to suss out pitfalls. But experts and scientist don’t always get heard, in corporations or in government. Many people want to shush them because they are getting in the way of profits. So I see it as my job as a citizen to look for experts, scientists, etc who are voicing concerns or making recommendation and support them, if I feel they are making a compelling argument.

    As to “In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of an example of an actual risk to human health due to GMO”
    I’ll say it again if a pitfall produces a large crop failure and food prices rise, that means is an actual risk to human health, often to populations that are most vulnerable. But I think what you are saying is “actual risk” from consumption, not actual risk from a change in agricultural practices. Which I keep agreeing with.

    Have you considered the possibility that a more straightforward discussion of the true pitfalls of GMO might redirect people into a more constructive discussion?

  14. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Anyone that’s watched a actual baboon foraging won’t fancy imitating its diet. I wonder what the nutritional value of scorpions and other assorted bugs is? And before you say, “A baboon is not a human”, anyone fancy a plateful of mopane worms? I know where you can buy them dried, if the shop still stocks them (bought them myself and ate – one).

    I read somewhere (possibly even here, in which case apologies for repeating it) that chimps, who are not great meat eaters, will often revisit their feces a la rabbits. Except in this case, they pull out the undigested meat pieces and re-consume them.

    Gross.

  15. mgmcewen says:

    “First, by definition the Paleolithic period ended 10,000 years ago. Therefore your evidence of artherosclerosis in more recent populations is irrelevant. If you want to dismiss Cordain’s argument in the way you have here, you’ll have to find evidence of this disease process happening readily before 10,000 years ago, in populations that didn’t eat grains or dairy.”

    I like how Cordain et al. use evidence from modern foraging populations like the San and Kitavans when convenient and yet you dismiss it? Tell me, what magical process happened 10,000 years ago that would make people living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle like the San somehow so different from their paleolithic counterparts? People were already eating grains before 10,000 years ago anyway, they just weren’t domesticated yet.

  16. the bug guy says:

    @WLU

    Your mention of ‘terminator’ technology (properly, GURT-Gene Use Restriction Technology) raises another good point. Even though never commercialized, it continues to be singled out as some kind of horror story, while to the contrary, it would seriously reduce many of the complaints about the risk of biotech contamination or of biotech traits going wild.

    Anastasia Bodnar wrote a good primer several years ago on the subject:
    http://geneticmaize.wordpress.com/2008/06/03/gene-flow-ip-and-the-terminator/

  17. DugganSC says:

    @WLU:
    As regards my concerns on over-supplementation risks of “enriched” crops, you’re right that it’s probably not really a risk at all. {wrinkles nose} Looking back on it, I had to introduce a supplement just to get a viable example of the risks. As regards your comment to MTR about how “these crops are studied by very, very smart people, and it is in their motivation to produce a safe, viable crop that meets a significant need”, I’ll admit that I’m with MTR that I’m less worried about the science and scientists involved in it, and more about the business plan and the CEOs who may not be looking past “this will guarantee an excellent fourth quarter profit, and I’m retiring in a year, so that’s all I have to worry about”. And, of course, unintended consequences of things they didn’t test for in the labs, but that’s pretty standard. The world is filled with short-sighted attempts to fix an ecological problem that ultimately became worse problems, c.f. multiple cases of invasive species.

  18. BrewandFerment says:

    @Billy Joe,

    Sorry mate, I didn’t know you were an Oz denizen…but surely there is something similar there? You are at least as close to one of the great bean growing countries as I am in NY USA, if not closer.

    @WLU–yup, what I said, cuz I was in fact referring to the same Cook’s Illustrated recipe you were. Sometimes I read their articles just for the explanations of the processes even if I don’t want to make the recipe. They have a great sourdough recipe too.

    @ lilady, guilty foodie here–but I draw the line at balut (fermented duck embryos) and the silkworms which were for sale on the streets in China. Crunchy outside, gooey inside, tomato hornworm green–yuk. I would have had to get so drunk that I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the act of chewing…and the durian I tried once wasn’t fabulous enough to be worth getting past the stink. But fishhead stew in Singapore is yummy (although the fish cornea or whatever it’s called was a bit startling–felt like a plastic bead when I bit it by accident)

  19. Dave S says:

    As far as scorpions and bugs I’m sure our ancestors ate them. Currently in Asia I understand insects and spiders are often consumed. I’ve read Eskimo children relish botfly larvae which are said to taste like strawberries and primitive peoples eat grubs. Where I live bears gain a lot of weight in the summer from eating cuttworm moths which they find under the rocks on talus slopes. Each moth is said to have the nutritional value of a peanut and a bear may consume thousands in a day.

    To put this in perspective, the naturalist and author Bernd Heinrich once described his breakfast as something like this:

    “Cooked unformed embryo from a fowl, secretions from the mammary gland of an ungulate, bitter water in which a ground up seed from a coffee plant had been boiled and sweetened with an excretion of an insect’s gut” (he’s a beekeeper and gets all his sweetener form that).

  20. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @the bug guy

    Very interesting, thanks! Completely destroys my ideas for a postapocalyptic novel, but that probably just would have ended up with Monsanto being burned to the ground anyway. It’s amazing how, knowing what I do about the nutjobbery and antiscientific objections of CAM and related nonsense, I am still tempted to write a book featuring these tropes. I’d need some sort of “look, this is fiction, the reality is nothing like what you read here” appendix though. I was struck by one amusing objection Bodnar includes:

    Make farmers more vulnerable to climate change by forcing them to use commercial seed rather than locally adapted varieties, which are far more resilient to unpredictable weather patterns.

    If this were true, you would never have famine because all those resiliant seeds would just keep growing due to the unpredictable weather. This is actually a reason why GMO research is being done on crops, to try to build in, in a much more surgical and predictable way, the existing positive traits of some crops into others. My mythic polybenefit grain above would be the holy grail, the ultimate achievement of GMO, a single crop that could literally grow anywhere, under any condition, and be literally the only thing humans would ever need to eat to survive. My word, we live in interesting times! GMO seems like a much better long-term state investment than the crop subsidies currently used and much maligned in the corn belt of the US. But you’d need some sort of brilliant solution like rule by robots for that to happen, the free market and government are unlikely to produce it.

    I keep going back to the lack of scientific objections to GMO. If people want to protest, protest business practices, funding and regulation. Write a letter to your congressperson about the need to heavily invest in publicly funded GMO crop research whose results can be released under open license. If we undertook a Feed the World with GMO Crops project along the lines of the Human Genome Project, chances are the influence of Monsanto would be far less pernicious. If some sort of magical baseline improved crop could be produced that addresses many of the nutritional needs of the world’s population for free after initial investment, that’s a win for nearly everyone. Even Monsanto could find a role in further improving them (perhaps by investing in taste-improving technology if the nutrition issues were already taken care of).

    And to address other points – balut is gross, I don’t understand the Asian love of “cartilaginous” as a valued food texture. The best part of Cooks Illustrated is the narrative, since that’s where you find the underlying principles. Honey is better described as “bee vomit” if you are going for the maximum yuck factor :)

  21. mousethatroared says:

    If we undertook a Feed the World with GMO Crops project along the lines of the Human Genome Project, chances are the influence of Monsanto would be far less pernicious.

    Now you’re talking WLU – Does GMO have an open source* movement? I just don’t happen to differentiate the science from the business practices, so much, in my mind, the business practices should be guided by the science of the process.

    hmm, possibly the foundation of a good sci-fi espionage novel.

  22. mousethatroared says:

    that “hmm” should have a * before it.

  23. Chris says:

    the bug guy:

    The business issues with companies like Monsanto have not so much to do with biotechnology as they do with old-fashioned business practices of buying out competitors to gain market share.

    At a science talk I attended about GMO by a biologist (who has been targeted by some anti-GMO activists), the academics complain about Monsanto for getting patents on published research done at a university, that then restricted their use for actual research. As a result universities and other research institutions have become better at using the patent laws. He said when certain patents expire, there will be more opportunities opened up for research.

    BrewandFerment:

    The alcohol content of the vodka inhibits some of the gluten formation and since vodka is not all water, you can have more liquid without the bad effects of water on the dough.

    WLU:

    Cooks Illustrated (fhtagn!) has a recipe for flaky, foolproof pie dough that I’ve also made dozens of times, and produces a delicious, flaky crust, every time.

    I heard about that when the CI folks were talking about their new book on Science Friday a few months ago. Because of that reminder I put The Science of Good Cooking (Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks) on hold at the library.

    WLU:

    But again, the gut is quite capable of disarticulating these foods, adaptation to a new environment (that of farming and agriculture) exerts its own tremendous pressure on human selection, and most of the foods we eat now have been heavily modified to be more nutritious and useful to humans over tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of years. You simply can’t eat like a hunter gatherer, that kind of food doesn’t exist anymore (certainly not in significant volumes).

    Tonight’s dinner is a take off of a rice dish from near the Golden Triangle (middle eastern). Except it uses cauliflower, which is nothing like its original brassica, only being noted in Arabic writings in the 12th or 13th century (using wikipedia). Plus there is yogurt sauce using garlic, mint and cucumbers (which according to wikipedia is ancient, though probably not the type I got at the grocery store). Not to mention the changes over the past several millenniums on chickens. Though the cumin, garlic, allspice and other spices are probably pretty close to ancient.

    WLU:

    In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of an example of an actual risk to human health due to GMO.

    From the talk I went to a few years ago, there was the celery that had the same pytophototoxin poison that exists in giant hogweed (same family). If the plant juice gets on your skin, it causes a burning rash when exposed to sunlight. So that particular crop of celery harmed the pickers. The only problem is that I cannot remember if it was a GMO or a conventionally bred variety. (our experience is when my younger son was young and a friend grabbed hunk of giant hogweed and used it like a sword, my kid ended up with a nasty rash)

    Also, WLU, in the postapocalyptic novel, you have to also take into account that the food crops and animals that have been created in the last ten thousand years need humans to breed and grow. There is a reason that many animals are artificially inseminated, and that many plants do not spread on their own (unlike many weeds). The things that made them better to eat would not be part of “natural selection.”

  24. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Now you’re talking WLU – Does GMO have an open source* movement? I just don’t happen to differentiate the science from the business practices, so much, in my mind, the business practices should be guided by the science of the process.

    That was the part of Tomorrow’s Table that I retained the least of, lacking a pre-existing frameowrk of expertise or awareness within which to integrate this new information. I go further than you in that I think everything should be guided by science, but doubt that will be the case in my lifetime. And there are many advantages to private industry that science probably can’t anticipate or incentivize. Plus, science usually can’t resolve the “is-ought” dilemma; it can tell you how to do something, rarely can it tell you whether to do it.

    hmm, possibly the foundation of a good sci-fi espionage novel.

    Oh yes. I’d like to see one that doesn’t turn the company into the villain though. It plays to easily to our prejudices.

    @Chris

    I own Science of Good Cooking and you can get most of the information from their magazines. I managed to blaze through it in a very short amount of time since I was already familiar with most of the 50 principles discussed, which they often reuse. I apparently have a pathological inability to refuse to buy their products. Fhtagn! There’s actually a good case to be made that CI’s business practices are themselves quite suspect, given their tiered memberships, republication of much of their content and artificial splitting of magazine, website and business branch. But they produce such damned good recipes…

  25. mousethatroared says:

    WLU “Oh yes. I’d like to see one that doesn’t turn the company into the villain though. It plays to easily to our prejudices”

    See one? WLU – didn’t I tell you? You’re writing this. Things to consider, if you go the other way and the open source group (collective) is the villain, than you end up with Neo- Ayn Rand stuff…. there’s always the rogue government or terrorists to fall back on (because THAT doesn’t play too easily to our prejudices, right?).

    Good chatting with you WLU , always thought provoking.

  26. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Always nice to have a civil disagreement with someone. Challenges to our views should be welcomed.

    Matthew Woodring Stover’s Acts of Caine series (specifically Blade of Tyshalle I believe, which doesn’t seem to be sold anymore unfortunately) had an interesting take on your ideas and suggestions. Much of it is gory sci-fi/fantasy (it manages to actually bridge the two, unlike the lazy propensity to simply shelve them together in bookstores) but he manages numerous interesting points and situations. He actually has both evil corporations (like, really evil, like “literally causes pain and suffering for fun” evil) and a crowd-sourced…for lack of a better term, “mass soul gang-rape”. Having read it, I would never do anything but imitate it. Poorly.

    I like Matt Stover’s work.

  27. DugganSC says:

    @MTR:
    Obviously, the best way to handle it is to show the benefits and drawbacks of both sides. The corporations are more organized, but more rigid. The open source movement isw coming out with results in leaps and bounds, but the “information must be free” crowd leads to potential for “script kiddiez” to cross poison ivy and kudzu and seed the local park with it, or for someone well-intentioned deciding that we need to bring back a prehistoric plant in the local parks (shades of the guy who released all of the birds from Shakespeare’s plays in Central Park, leading to the current starling problem) or forgetting to add a self-limiting factor when he puts together a plant to pull excess heavy metals out of the soil so that it can be disposed of with the leaves.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a realistic take on open-source GMO. I’ve seen a number of takes on nanotechnology and 3D printers. I’ve seen fantastic takes on everyone having access to gene-manipulation (you know, the sort where crossing yourself with cat genes is a fashion expression and retrogenes can change your sex in seconds). Could be interesting.

  28. the bug guy says:

    Ironically, a lot of the organized opposition to gmo varieties and regulatory expenses have driven most of the research to large corporations. While we have some close to open source gmo technology (such as Ring-Spot Virus resistant papaya in Hawaii and the long in development golden rice), the costs for many more can only be born by large corporations. Even when smaller companies, such as Okanagan Specialty Fruits develop biotech products like the non-browning Arctic Apple, they run into considerable opposition.

    There is a considerable amount of research on biotech crops and safety, with a lot of it independently funded. The GENERA database is a good listing:
    http://www.biofortified.org/genera/

  29. mousethatroared says:

    DugganSC – the way you put it…that whole open source GMO sounds increasingly unappealing. (sigh) Still works for post-apocalypse fiction, though.

  30. DugganSC says:

    @MTR:

    Technology advancement a difficult thing in a lot of ways. Knowledge has always had the potential to upset the balance of power. The chief difficulty, as alluded to by “the bug guy”, is resources. Most likely, genetic modification will remain the province of large corporations or government for some time because of the cost of equipment and materials. But eventually, things probably will get cheaper and thus more accessible. There have been certainly been similar debates over the years over the secret formula for bronze, the ingredients to an effective love philtre, the components of gunpowder, and how to build an atomic bomb. We’ve definitely had it more recently for encryption protocols, security vulnerabilities, and 3D printer blueprints (fairly recently, we had the guy who was posting blueprints for assault rifle plans, which really kicked the hornet’s nest).

  31. the bug guy says:

    @DugganSC

    More or less, the technology to mostly open source a lot of biotechnology development is already available and surprisingly affordable. The major costs of bringing new crops to market are regulatory and litigation-protective research.

  32. rork says:

    They’ll have to be an actual GMO post to bring anti’s here it appears.
    This week at my U, a sports-medicine-type prof wrote an anti-GMO screed from nutritional perspective in which he worried about increased IGF1 levels in GM salmon, referencing two papers that high IGF1 is bad wrt to cancer (like you’d expect for most any growth factor). And he wasn’t worried about the salmon getting cancer, he was worried about people eating the salmon. Watch out, there may be EGF in there too. It was pretty bad in other ways as well, and was embarrassing. Some commenters found it outstanding though.

    Terminator technology:
    Farmers near me have grown hybrid corn for many decades. One of my profs was old enough to have been around for some of the early development, and told stories that in their test plots, their beautiful hybrid corn ears would go mysteriously missing. Next year some of the nearby farmers had some corn plots that were filled with hopeful monsters of every description.

  33. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @rork

    Any comments from said sports med type regarding the digestibility of IGF-1?

    A guest post from a genuine expert or at least researcher on GMO would be very, very interesting (though it strays from medicine). Perhaps a guest post on the health benefits (potential or actual) and health detriments (potential or actual) of GMO crops.

    Your story about the practicality of farmers is amusing to me :)

  34. rork says:

    “Any comments from said sports med type regarding the digestibility of IGF-1?”
    Of course not (it would kill the point), despite his claiming nutritional expertise in a nutritionally oriented article. Whether he knew if it were a small-molecule hormone or a protein wasn’t clear.
    Further horror: the Frankenfish had about 5% less of various amino acids and a few other things, but please fail to notice that it has 5% more fat and so might have 5% less protein – I like my chinook that way, although I’m spoiled on wild upriver brights (from the Columbia, at my brother’s, they cost >$20/lb at the store), and so have the luxury to disdain farmed fish. When it came to omega’s 3 and 6, and several other things that might be no worse or even better in the evil salmon, he had a great solution: switch to comparing to wild chinook rather than farm raised. Arrrrgh!
    Also please, stick to cane sugar, cause the local stuff is increasingly from *gasp* frankenbeets (to be fair, he didn’t use that term, and I forget if those are Bt or RR or both near me).
    Disclaim: It’s not like I think there are no worries. I take GMOs one at a time. As an angler (and educated about population genetics) I have high concerns about fish farming of any kind, due to environment, disease, and gene escape.

  35. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Disclaim: It’s not like I think there are no worries. I take GMOs one at a time

    What, you mean like a rational person?

    :)

  36. rokujolady says:

    Just a little factoid here: in the last millennium of pharaonic civilisation, especially in the roman period, mummification was practiced in a widening demographic such that we have mummies of people who were definitely middle class. With the excavations at Amarna we are getting lots of skeletal remains of the poor, some of which have tissue. So, why do we keep saying we only have the remains of the wealthy? It has more to do, I think with the lack of care taken by excavators and museums of the poorer mummies. Before the second half of the twentieth century, archaeology in Egypt was more about getting nice bling for the museum and studying art history. Hence, if you find a crude coffin, it gets stuck in the storehouse and not published. It certainly doesn’t make the display in a large famous museum. Hence we have this idea that the poor didn’t have funerary monuments. They did. We just don’t see or read about them much.

  37. DavidRLogan says:

    I apologize for arriving late to the party, and thereby possibly repeating arguments given above. Also thank you, Dr. Gorski, as always, for this amazingly detailed and persuasive (and funny!) post.

    However I do disagree with some of the philosophical assertions made in the post and the comments. My apologies if I don’t give anyone a charitable interpretation of their argument…

    First, it is true that “paleo” peeps despoiled their environment, were very cruel to animals, etc. However without advanced technology, their ability to do so was quite limited. So it would still be fair to say their despoilment, cruelty, etc. were far less than ours (at least to my mind), right? I assume your professor, Dr. Gorski, would agree to this.

    Second I think it is very fair to say Western society (and industry) has wrongly destroyed some native peoples. Whether those people lived in “harmony” or not seems to me beside the point (“harmony” is modern people’s justification for why those cultures were great…it is not the justification those cultures would give themselves (and as you point out they were not harmonious anyway))

    But mostly I find it odd both sides (paleo and what I’ll call “skeptic”) cash out the good life in terms of conventional modern values like health in old age, low mortality, even environmental damage.

    It’s an empirical question, of course, whether ancient humans really suffered so much from (for instance) high mortality. I can’t begin to comment on this question…but I’m skeptical. I doubt paleo folk suffered from high mortality anymore than I suffer from not living to be 500 years old (even though people in the future may live to that age). And I doubt they suffered the lack of modern technology anymore than I suffer from not having teleportation, time machines, downloading sandwhiches, or whatever else the future holds.

    At least the small bit of evidence I’ve accumulated in my blockhead, people have not always viewed death or aging like we do. It is not Paleo people, or Romans (like Seneca) or other ancients who tell us high mortality is awful. It is modern skeptics and the “paleo” crowd who live in comfortable circumstances. And it is not these ancient groups who tell us aging, even terrible aging, is a problem…it is people like Mercola, Cordain, etc. (viz people who have never used their body for anything serious). My suspicion is that people who actually face these “hardships” (and I did recently) have come to terms with them and would not consider them the reason one culture is better than another.

    The argument over whether industrial society is the greatest is interesting. But it ought not be framed in such a way that death, aging, disease, etc. (ie the very values of industrial society itself) are the indices of greatness (or at least I think those indices need more argumentation backing them up).

    Again, great post as always Dr. Gorski.

    -David

  38. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Actually, our paleolithic predecessors were quite capable of large-scale changes to the landscape, through fire and extinctions. Firing the prairies to drive animals as well as permit certain types of plants to grow better generated columns of smoke that blotted out the sun in Europe. South America is the heaviest-modified continent in the world, immense tracts of land are very, very thick with layers of ash and broken pottery; they cultivated trees rather than crops, and many of those trees are still present, bearing fruit and siring offspring. See 1491 by Charles Mann.

    The question of “right” and “wrong” regards native populations is not one science can answer; they were certainly on the losing side of a battle for land and resources. However, there are arguments that can be made that their use of the land was less efficient than European equivalents, and that as seminomadic people who frequently warred amongst themselves, the ones we historically associate with various territories are merely the second-last in a long line of settlers, and in the Great Lakes regions would farm the land for a decade then relocate when the soil became too exhausted to produce adequate yields (a common problem in Native settlements). The last in the line of settlers, of course, were Europeans. See First Nations? Second Thoughts by Tom Flanagan and The First North Americans by Brian Fagan (the latter addresses farming techniques as well as long lists of Native groups that arrived, exceeded the area’s carrying capacity, and died or relocated). Is what happened to the Native Americans truly a unique, horrific crime? Or merely one in a thousand such incidents of war and battle over territory, merely played out here with different partners and perhaps differing in scale (mostly due to epidemics, not necessarily war). See Guns, Germs and Steel as well as 1491.

    As usual, it’s complicated. I don’t think these moral points will get much play on a science-based medicine blog (but perhaps! They’re favourite topics of mine to discuss).

  39. DavidRLogan says:

    Thanks for the comment WLU! Very interesting as always!

  40. William B'Livion says:

    @WilliamLawrenceUtridge:

    “These people, far smarter than you or I, spend their days thinking about…”

    No. No, they are not.

    While you and I may disagree on a few things your writing indicates a mind that is capable of grasping problems of moderate complexity which means you’re not a f*ing idiot.

    The HR department at Monsanto are subject to the brutality of the Gaussian Distribution just like any other company. They need head count, they need butts in white coats, just like IBM or Google.

    This isn’t to say that GMO is bad. Something like 8 million children have died in the last 8 years because Greenpeace and other shitheads opposed “Golden Rice”. Monsanto has done some f*d up things to various farmers and communities, but it’s not science, it’s law, baksheesh and greed.

    A couple things about Paleo–I’m not a memeber of the Church of Paleo, but I do try to eat in the Primal/Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness are of the diet world. I fail a lot, and pizza is in NO way part of that world, which means I’ll never be completely that way.

    But it’s important to note a couple thinks that Dr. Gorski either misses or ignores:

    1) We simply do not need to consume as many calories (generally, across the population in the US) as we did in, to pick a date, 1960. This means that we don’t NEED to eat as many calories. However much of our micro-nutrient requirement still exists. Breads and grains provide lots of macro-nutrients, but the vitamin and minerals they bring to the diet are often replicated elsewhere. You can generate a rule that says “eat no grains” and still get a much more complete diet than if you said “eat no meat” or “eat no vegetables”.

    2) Exercise is supposed to be part of the whole Paleo schtick. Not the “40 minutes on a gerbil wheel three times a week” type of exercise, but a mix of high intensity resistance training and just more moving.

    If you do something to get people eating healthier foods and moving more you are going to get lots of people who report feeling better. When you have people dropping 20 to 200 pounds off their frames, you’re going to get less arthritis, less type II diabetes (I wonder how many of these folks were borderline or undiagnosed type II?)

    I know that last year in the Jan/Feb time frame I got my wife to dramatically modify her/our diet to one based mostly on meat and vegetables, leaving out a LOT of the grains and starches (she’s polish and walking away from potatoes is hell for her) and between that and, a set or two of kettle bell swings and pushups a couple times a week and doing more walking and bike riding (her car died, and we lived in a place that was moderately walkable) she dropped from 175 to 155 in about 3 months, and has now kept it off for almost a year, even though we’re not in a walkable climate/location any more.

    There has been a LOT of changes in our food supply since WWII. Most of the population has gone from eating a mostly fresh-food diet to eating a mostly preserved and processed food diet. Our breads have gone from long rise yeasts (that tend to break down the phytic acid) to much quicker rising yeasts (that don’t). We’ve gone from useing sugar in moderate amount to haveing everything so g*d*n sweet it’s disgusting (we take the fat out of food and add back in sugar, or HFC etc.).

    I don’t think we’re so smart as to be able to engineer nutrition, and while I don’t the the more religious aspects of Paleo are good I do thing that the diet and lifestyle they espouse is better than the stupid “food pyramid”.

    As to their rather rosier view of history than *all* of the evidence suggests, well, we all have things we believe in in the face of prevailing evidence, now don’t we?

  41. lgcvsa says:

    Archaeological evidence of bodies dating back only 5000 years in insufficent to refute any the claims made my paleo advocates. People who lived c. 3000 BCE were already 5000 years into the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic Era. Modern evidence suggests that heart disease, as evidenced in the mummified bodies mentioned in this article, analysis of which makes up the bulk of the article, is actually caused by a grain-heavy diet which doesn’t provide a healthy balance between omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, or by eating animals which have been fed evolutionarily incorrect feed, *not* by eating naturally-raised lean meat.

    The fact that the author of this article did not see these two huge, glaring holes, among the many others included in their hypothesis, demonstrates that this is not, in fact, “science-based medicine”, as the website domain name purports. In fact, this is not science, at all, let alone bad science.

    “These foods included, predictably, cultivated foods such as bread (made from grain), rice, and potatoes. Zuk couldn’t resist asking a question, namely why the inability to digest so many common foods would persist in the population, observing, “Surely it would have been selected out of the population.” Cordain’s response? That humans had not had time to adapt to these foods, to which Zuk retorted, “Plenty of time.””

    Not only is this merely an anecdote, it is such an over-simplification of the topic as to be utterly useless, and furthermore, it ignores the entire history of food preparation. Yes, Homo sapiens sapiens has evolved in minor ways over the past 10,000 or so years, but we didn’t suddenly grown a rumen or the ability to digest phytates. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the only means of leavening bread was via the sourdough method, which dramatically reduces phytates. Beginning with the introduction of factory-grown yeast cultures, we now commonly eat breads which contain high levels of anti-nutrients. The only evidence you need to understand the action of anti-nutrients is to look at the levels of severe malnutrition in developing countries who have little to no meat in their primarily grain-based diets.

    Many populations have also either lost the ability, or never had the ability, to synthesise long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids from short-chain varieties, depending on their access to seafood. These long-chain omega-3′s are critical for brain development.

    All unfermented grain- and legume-based foods contain significant levels of anti-nutrients. How sad that a publication that purports to be science-based immediately castigates any mention of our intuitive understanding of the natural world as a naturalistic fallacy, regardless of the merits of the actual data.

    This is not even bad science; it’s not science, at all.

  42. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Archaeological evidence of bodies dating back only 5000 years in insufficent to refute any the claims made my paleo advocates.

    Considering the claims made by paleo advocates are just that – claims, and fairly slippery ones – it’s not really an evidence-based discussion. What claims, exactly? Do paleo advocates claim their diets cure all diseases of all humans? Make a specific claim, support it with references rather than assertions about what ancient humans ate, then we can discuss.

    People who lived c. 3000 BCE were already 5000 years into the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic Era.

    Did you not read the part of the article discussing the Unangans? No agriculture in the Arctic circle, but still atherosclerosis. In fact, they’re nearly a perfect test-case for paleodiets since they combine extensive marine food sources, large amounts of exercise and zero access to grains.

    Modern evidence suggests that heart disease, as evidenced in the mummified bodies mentioned in this article, analysis of which makes up the bulk of the article, is actually caused by a grain-heavy diet which doesn’t provide a healthy balance between omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, or by eating animals which have been fed evolutionarily incorrect feed, *not* by eating naturally-raised lean meat.

    Dearly would I love to see this evidence, since you don’t provide any in your comment. You might also note that modern humans, despite their allegedly horrific diets, have nearly twice the life expectancy of hunter-gatherers. Of course, the chance of getting spear through the belly (or narwhal tusk through the eye) does impact this.

    The fact that the author of this article did not see these two huge, glaring holes, among the many others included in their hypothesis, demonstrates that this is not, in fact, “science-based medicine”, as the website domain name purports. In fact, this is not science, at all, let alone bad science.

    Mmmmm, straw man…the sample of the study included hunter-gatherers, and you ignore the cumulative and positive nature of science. No studies are perfect, so future studies must test, address and triangulate with previous findings. Demanding “magic bullet” perfect studies, in fact, isn’t science. Plus, science and scientists start with evidence – not assumptions. Paleo diet starts with assumptions and makes massive recommendations based on them – the idea that there is a mythical “paleo” time, that humans stopped evolving, that humans are so homogeneous that one diet is adequate for all people.

    Yes, Homo sapiens sapiens has evolved in minor ways over the past 10,000 or so years, but we didn’t suddenly grown a rumen or the ability to digest phytates.

    Not that we had to – instead, we developed ways to process foods to make them more digestible. Not to mention, phytates bind to certain minerals. Aside from that, phytates don’t really seem to be much of a problem.

    Many populations have also either lost the ability, or never had the ability, to synthesise long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids from short-chain varieties, depending on their access to seafood. These long-chain omega-3′s are critical for brain development.

    People with no access to seafood develop perfectly normally. I eat seafood perhaps once or twice per year and appear to be suffering no ill effects. And the best sources of omega fatty acids from seafood come from cold water species near the poles. The cradle of humanity is Africa, rather far from the poles.

    All unfermented grain- and legume-based foods contain significant levels of anti-nutrients.

    …easily addressed through processing (i.e. fermenting) or changes to diets. And really only causing micronutrient deficiency for certain minerals.

    How sad that a publication that purports to be science-based immediately castigates any mention of our intuitive understanding of the natural world as a naturalistic fallacy, regardless of the merits of the actual data.

    Here you just sound like a condescending douche. Just to let you know.

    This is not even bad science; it’s not science, at all.

    As opposed to listing a whole bunch of claims without references and selectively attending to only portions of the relevant topic while ignoring confounds, contradictory information and ad hominem arguments?

  43. windriven says:

    @William B’livion

    ” Our breads have gone from long rise yeasts (that tend to break down the phytic acid) to much quicker rising yeasts (that don’t).”

    Technically, it isn’t the yeast that has changed but the form and the usage. To the best of my knowledge, all of the yeast used (save naturally occurring yeasts used in sourdoughs) are saccharomyces cerevisiae. Historically, this was commonly sold to bakers and homemakers as refrigerated blocks of yeast. Now it is most often sold dried and granulated (active dry) or more finely granulated and treated with ascorbic acid (instant yeast). For what it is worth, bakers have traditionally added ascorbic acid in one form or another as a conditioner so the addition to instant yeast isn’t new. What is new is rapid rise techniques that produce lots of bread in a short period of time but rob it of its flavor and character.

    I’m an amateur artisanal bread maker so I’m definitely not a paleo. But you do make interesting points about the relatively weak contribution of grains to one’s diet (other than calories) versus, say, the contribution of vegetables.

    Still, I think the primary point that Dr. Gorski was trying to make is that a paleo diet is not a magic bullet or somehow ‘better’ than other diets; that there is nothing magical or evolutionarily preferential about it. A generally Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fish, vegetables, olive oil and, yes, grains, is a perfectly reasonable diet as is any that provides necessary nutrients while limiting unnecessary calories. I’m pretty sure that paleo man wasn’t a big consumer of olive oil and barolo :-)

    And, as you noted, getting off one’s a$$ and moving around a bit is vital.

  44. Chris says:

    William B’livion:

    There has been a LOT of changes in our food supply since WWII. Most of the population has gone from eating a mostly fresh-food diet to eating a mostly preserved and processed food diet.

    How does that work for places that have cold winters? Do you think my mother had fresh fruits and veggies in February while growing up in Eau Clair, WI during the 1930s? Did I imagine the shelves full of canned food, including pickles, in my grandparents’ basement. Did I imagine canning peaches on a September afternoon with my mother’s cousin? (by the way the pears she canned with a slice of citrus like orange or lemon were divine!) And since my grandfather was Norwegian, how do you explain lutefisk as being “fresh food.”

    Since I have an edible garden, I am confronted each fall with a large amounts of apples and some pears. Am I supposed to eat them all in October, or do you think it is okay dokay that I process them into frozen slices, sauce and dried fruit? By the way, my apple butter is lovely on ham. Do you think no one before WWII ate ham, a form of preserved pork?

  45. windriven says:

    @Chris

    Apple butter …. Mmmmmm :-)

    Lutkefisk ….. Mmmmmmm, apple butter :-)

  46. windriven says:

    @William B’livion

    I got so engrossed in bread that I neglected my two more important items. You suggested that Dr. Gorski “either misses or ignores”:

    1. We need fewer calories than during times when we were less sedentary, and;
    2. We need to be less sedentary.

    While Dr. Gorski may not have touched on these issues in this particular post these have been common themes in diet related posts by him and other contributors at SBM.

  47. Chris says:

    windriven, the apple butter and ham are very nice on freshly baked whole wheat cheese biscuits.

    Hmmm, wait: cheese is a way to preserve milk. William B’livion, did you know that cheese was a preserved food used before WWII? It is an absolutely ancient way to use milk, and a gateway to dairy use before humans developed lactase persistence. As noted by this 7000 year old find in Poland.

  48. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    I held off on replying to this, but I suppose I will now.

    No. No, they are not.
    While you and I may disagree on a few things your writing indicates a mind that is capable of grasping problems of moderate complexity which means you’re not a f*ing idiot.
    The HR department at Monsanto are subject to the brutality of the Gaussian Distribution just like any other company. They need head count, they need butts in white coats, just like IBM or Google.

    Yes, yes they are. The people who investigate GMO are far, far smarter than me, at least in terms of GMO, genetics, biology, chemistry, virology, and I have no doubt many other things. The objections I raise or denounce about GMO are based on widespread principles. I can point out that our stomachs digest proteins down to individual amino acids, that cross-breeding is uncontrolled in a way that viral insertion of BT DNA into corn does not. I can’t speak to specific genes, I can’t explain how a specific protein makes a grain more salt or flood tolerant. I can’t visualize molecules travelling through biological pathways. GMO has been thought about by brilliant people, lots and lots of them, and they have looked at it from biological, medical, nutritional, economic and ethical perspectives. Their objections are not about the science, it’s the infrastructure, distribution, economics and ethics.

    People who bitch and moan about Monsanto should write to their friggin’ congressperson to support widespread funding of GMO research at universities using federal funding dollars so these corps can be open-sourced, and so the nonscientific objections can be addressed. The reason Monsanto is the only place doing this kinda research is because of the stupid objections and pressures placed on regulators driving up the costs so only large organizations can bear them. Hate evil corporations? It’s in your capability to do something about it.

    This whole paleo thing is such nonsense anyway. It’s concrete recommendations, if you can pin them down, are substantially similar to the USDA ones, perhaps substituting fruits and vegetables instead of grains. The sole specific objection I’ve seen, mineral deficiencies, isn’t a problem in the first world that I’m aware of. The area seems rife with arrogance and certainty however, and that’s annoying. As if there is any reason to even believe there’s some sort of single, magical diet that will let you live forever in perfect health. For a set of assumptions that seems to be based on evolutionary underpinnings, proponents seem woefully ignorant of the fact that there is essentially zero evolutionary pressure to live a long, healthy life. Evolution is about ensuring genes survive, which means once you pass breeding age, there’s no pressure to maintain health (yes, kin selection, blah blah blah, but that’s far less direct and impactful than direct parent-child evolution). Exercise is similarly redundant to regular, mainstream recommendations.

    @Chris

    Lutefisk sounds gross – fish alkalinized to the point that it falls to slimy pieces, left to ferment. Is it like cheese, where it smells atrocious but tastes OK and proteiny? Lots of short-chain amino acids? Blech, I don’t even like regular fish!

  49. Chris says:

    WLU, when properly prepared lutefisk essentially turns into a jelled fish, that really does not have much taste. It is eaten with white sauce and allspice sometimes. It was a way to preserve fish in Nordic countries where there are several months where fresh was not possible.

  50. DugganSC says:

    I’m currently reading Paleofantasy, and I see that she brings up my main bugaboo about GMO crops, biodiversity. To a large degree, this is more about human psychology than the science involved, but there’s a risk of people deciding that a given crop is a silver bullet, and creating a single point of failure if we get something unexpected on the scale of the Irish Potato Blight. Very good reading. :) As I’ve come to expect from books recommended on this site.

  51. BrewandFerment says:

    Pickled herring, anyone? that’s preserved. An acquired taste, to be sure, but I like it. Jerky and pemmican are two ancient preservation methods that I am specifically aware of in relation to North America. I think they date back far enough to trigger the “paleo seal of approval.”

    Here’s an interesting tidbit from The Day of the Flying Fish, by Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason Magazine Nov 2007:

    “As Sasha Issenberg tells it in The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy (Gotham), sushi began in the fourth century B.C. as a preservation method for whitefish. Packing the fish in layers of rice helped it keep longer and lent both the fish and the rice intriguing new flavors. By the early 19th century, techniques had changed. The rice was flavored with vinegar and the fish with soy, and sushi could be created in seconds, without the long wait for fermentation.”

    Despite its present status, sushi was originally food cart fast food for common laborers. Whatever the origins, if given my choice I prefer fish (saltwater that is) sushi style over cooked. Wouldn’t say the same for freshwater fish of which I have never gotten terribly fond except maybe for catfish if prepared to eliminate the taste of mud.

  52. windriven says:

    @BrewandFerment

    ” The rice was flavored with vinegar and the fish with soy, and sushi could be created in seconds, without the long wait for fermentation.”

    Nonetheless, most Asian cultures have variants of well-aged fish. The Koreans, for instance, are fond of skate (devilfish, rays, whatever) that has been ‘aged’. It is a taste that requires rather more acquiring than, say, pickled herring :-)

    Striped bass (a common freshwater fish) can be served as sushi though it does taste a bit muddy and, of course, unagi – the most common eel in American sushi restaurants – is a freshwater creature.

    The Swedes too have a buried fish; theirs called surströmming. It is perhaps the most evil thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. But I found that if you eat it as the Swedes do, chased with considerable quantities of aquavit, it grows on you after a while. :-)

  53. Chris says:

    Don’t forget the Korean version of sauerkraut: kimchi. It was definitely a way to preserve cabbage, with lots of chili, and some versions have fish added.

  54. windriven says:

    @Chris

    My best friend is a Korean guy; we make kimchi together from time to time. His mother makes the best kimchi I’ve ever eaten. Joe and I use his mother’s recipe but it is never quite the same. That recipe uses, among many other ingredients, oysters (!) and tiny little shrimp that come packed in saline in big glass jars. The result is a kimchi that is deep and complex.

    ***

    If your favorite itamae has a creme brulee torch, have him make regular salmon nigiri then torch the salmon until the surface has dried and changed to a tannish color but not blistered. I first had it this way in Vancouver, BC with a dab of a hot-sweet sauce but prefer it with just a squeeze of lemon. You would not believe what that small bit of torching does to the flavor!

  55. mousethatroared says:

    “My best friend is a Korean guy; we make kimchi together from time to time. His mother makes the best kimchi I’ve ever eaten. Joe and I use his mother’s recipe but it is never quite the same. That recipe uses, among many other ingredients, oysters (!) and tiny little shrimp that come packed in saline in big glass jars. The result is a kimchi that is deep and complex.”

    I love kimchi – and I can’t think of kimchi without thinking of bi bim bap, which I love even more. You guys are killing me.

  56. Chris says:

    windriven, that salmon nigiri sounds wonderful. That is not a very tradition way to do it, but the torching would cook the salmon only slightly and give a nice maillard reaction. Unfortunately I don’t get to many sushi places on vacation, I seem to be married to the only person from Vancouver Island who hates fish (he also hates camping). Though the last time we were north of the border, we did get some good Korean food in Richmond, BC.

    My only issue with Korean restaurants is that there is too much food, especially with the little plates. Though a nice bike ride away is a French inspired Korean restaurant I want to try: http://joulerestaurant.com/menu/dinner/

  57. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Chris, using the words “jellied fish” still isn’t making a case for eating lutefisk…nor does briefly torching sashimi, no matter how delicious Malliard reactions are in other foods.

    Tell you what, let’s divide the culinary world. You can have all the fish, and I’ll get all the pork. Once in a while we can trade some fish and chips for some bacon, so everybody wins :)

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