By Jaydee Hanson
In the foodie world, 2019 might as well be named The Year of the Impossible Burger. This plant-based burger that "bleeds" can now be found on the menus of Burger King, Fatburger, Cheesecake Factory, Red Robin, White Castle and many other national restaurant chains. Consumers praise the burger's meat-like texture and the product is advertised as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional beef burgers.
The Science<p>The <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/impossible-burger">Impossible Burger</a> is manufactured from two different methods of genetically engineering soy products. This "impossible in nature" union is neither healthier nor more environmentally friendly than other kinds of non-meat burgers. While Impossible Foods, the company behind the Impossible Burger, has been trying to spin its product as both healthier and more sustainable than those of its competitors, a quick examination of the company's own data suggests otherwise. </p><p><strong>1. The first kind of genetic engineering in the "Impossible Burger" is found in the soy used for the protein in the "burger" itself.</strong></p><p>Rather than starting with organic soy beans, which have <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613019201" target="_blank">higher levels of protein and lower levels of Omega 6 fatty acids (the bad Omega)</a>, the company <a href="https://medium.com/impossible-foods/how-our-commitment-to-consumers-and-our-planet-led-us-to-use-gm-soy-23f880c93408" target="_blank">chose to use GMO soybeans</a>, probably because they are cheaper than the organic beans. The company uses both GMO soy protein concentrate and GMO soy protein isolate <a href="https://faq.impossiblefoods.com/hc/en-us/articles/360018937494" target="_blank">for the protein in its burger</a>. Impossible Foods does not describe how it processes the soy, but alcohol is the most common solvent used to process soy protein concentrate, as it produces products with a neutral taste. But the beneficial isoflavones in soy are removed by this method. Soy protein concentrate has the lowest level of healthful isoflavones — including daidzein, genistein and glycitein — <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/134/5/1229S/4688709" target="_blank">of any form of processed soy</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, GMO soy is also sprayed with large amounts of the herbicide <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/glyphosate">glyphosate</a>, a product shown to cause cancer in people exposed during its application. GMO soy <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/8/e1600850" target="_blank">has been found</a> to use significantly more herbicides than conventional soy or organic soy. At a time when <a href="https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/5595/california-couple-prevail-in-third-roundup-cancer-lawsuit-awarded-2-billion" target="_blank">juries are awarding</a> billions of dollars in damages to those affected by exposure to glyphosate, it is startling that Impossible Foods would double down on the GMO soy that is inextricably linked to this toxic herbicide.</p><p><strong>2. The second kind of genetic engineering of soy produces the "heme" that makes the Impossible Burger "bleed." </strong></p><p>In order to manufacture its burgers, Impossible Foods takes DNA from the roots of soy plants, where a small amount of "heme" is produced, and inserts it into genetically engineered yeast that is then fermented to mass-produce heme. This is the first time that people have consumed this product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to require testing in this situation to make sure that this novel protein does not cause allergic reactions in people. Unfortunately, instead of requiring Impossible Foods to file a new Food Additive Petition, FDA allowed the company to use a weak regulatory process called "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS) where the company does its own research and chooses its own reviewers to self-certify that its product is safe for human consumption. Center for Food Safety has a <a href="https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/4956/groups-sue-fda-to-protect-food-safety" target="_blank">lawsuit</a> challenging the GRAS food additive loophole that the Impossible Burger went through, allowing it and many other novel food substances to unlawfully evade government analysis and approval before coming to market.</p><p>Even under the weak GRAS process, the first time the company submitted data on the allergenicity of its "heme," it was so inadequate that the FDA raised questions about the company's data and the company withdrew its application so that it could redo its research. Although the FDA now says that it has "no questions" about Impossible Foods' latest research on the safety of "heme," the agency itself has not affirmatively declared that "heme" produced in genetically engineered yeast is safe for human consumption. Moreover, FDA has warned Impossible Foods that it cannot claim its "heme" is a source of iron based on this review and that it must label its product as a potential allergen. The FDA also notes that the company should <a href="https://www.fda.gov/media/116243/download" target="_blank">request a review of the "heme" as a new color additive</a>.</p>
Conclusion<p>Most customers of the Impossible Burger will not see labels saying that the burgers are made from GMO soy or could cause allergic reactions as Impossible Foods are currently only selling to fast food chains which do not put such labels on their menus.</p><p>Rather than buy the GMOx2 Impossible Burger, choose a non-GMO burger made in your local area. The Washington Post <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/these-6-veggie-burgers-arent-meant-to-taste-like-meat--and-thats-what-makes-them-so-good/2019/05/24/f2f068e4-71d6-11e9-9f06-5fc2ee80027a_story.html?utm_term=.a6c02ebd1d9a" target="_blank">recently highlighted</a> six veggie-based burgers being made by local restaurants that are not serving the Impossible Burger.<strong></strong></p>
On Thursday the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa struck down the Iowa Ag-Gag law, holding that the ban on undercover investigations at factory farms and slaughterhouses violates the First Amendment. In 2017, a coalition of animal, environmental and community advocacy groups, including Center for Food Safety, challenged the law's constitutionality. Federal courts have similarly struck down Ag-Gag laws in Idaho and Utah as unconstitutional.
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Last week, Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the Trump Administration for refusing to make public documents surrounding its decision on how to label genetically engineered (GE or GMO) foods. On May 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released long-awaited proposed regulations for the first-ever U.S. mandatory disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering. Earlier this year, CFS sought the public data and documents about the rulemaking under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the administration failed to make public any information, leading to this CFS lawsuit to force that disclosure.
Victory for Whistleblowers in North Carolina: Court Reinstates Constitutional Challenge to 'Anti-Sunshine' Law
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled Tuesday that a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina's anti-sunshine law can go forward, reversing the decision of the federal district court. The law was designed to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from publicizing information about corporate misconduct, and a coalition including animal welfare, press freedom, food safety, and government watchdog groups is challenging the law's constitutionality.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday released the long-awaited proposed regulations for the mandatory disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO), which it calls "bioengineered foods."
The regulations come out of a 2016 law signed by President Obama prohibiting existing state GE labeling laws, such as Vermont's, that required on-package GE labeling, and instead created a federal "disclosure" program, which for the first time creates a nationwide standard of required GE disclosure. There now will be a 60 day public comment period. The 2016 law requires that USDA issue the final rules by July 29, 2018.
Tuesday Hawaii made history, as it became the first state in the U.S. to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic neurotoxin that causes significant damage to brain development in children. The pesticide's detrimental health effects led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration to propose banning all of its agricultural uses, but the Pruitt-led EPA under the current administration reversed this pledge. The bill, SB3095, is a significant first step in protecting public health from pesticide harms for the State of Hawaii. In addition to banning chlorpyrifos, SB3095 requires all users of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) to report usage of these pesticides, and mandates minimum 100-foot no-spray zones for RUPs around schools during school hours.
In 2015, the FDA approved genetically engineered salmon, the first ever GE animal to be approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians called for sufficient consultation with Tribes to assess the environmental impact of GE salmon production, a legal requirement the FDA did not honor.
Monday, the Washington Department of Ecology sided with Center for Food Safety and numerous other community and conservation groups, and denied shellfish growers a permit to spray imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, on shellfish beds on Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, in southwest Washington. The requested permit would have allowed shellfish growers from Willapa-Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association to spray this neurotoxic insecticide into water for the first time, in order to kill native burrowing shrimp.
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The yearly count of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico, released Monday, shows a decrease from last year's count and confirms the iconic orange and black butterfly is still very much at risk. The count of 2.48 hectares of occupied winter habitat is down from 2.91 hectares last winter.
Overall, monarchs have declined by more than 80 percent over the past two decades.
Conservation Groups, House Reps Call for EPA to Respect Science, Take Action on Pollinator-Killing Pesticides
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D.-Ore.), alongside Representative Jim McGovern (D.-Mass.) and conservation, farmworker, farmer and consumer groups, on Wednesday reintroduced the Saving America's Pollinators Act, which aims to suspend the registration of certain neonicotinoid insecticides until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a full scientific review.
In addition, 16 environmental and conservation groups have collected more than 100,000 public comments urging the agency to rein in the rampant overuse of neonicotinoid pesticides—a leading cause of pollinator population declines.
'Dangerous Drift-Prone Pesticide' Threatens Millions of Acres, Hundreds of Endangered Species: Farmers and Conservationists Sue EPA, Monsanto
On Friday, public interest organizations representing farmers and conservationists made their legal case in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Monsanto Company, challenging EPA's approval of Monsanto's new "XtendiMax" pesticide. XtendiMax is Monsanto's version of dicamba, an old and highly drift-prone weed-killer. EPA's approval permitted XtendiMax to be sprayed for the first time on growing soybeans and cotton that Monsanto has genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to dicamba.
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