In an unsettling update to the recent harness-wearing whale news story in which a harnessed whale believed escaped from the Russian military was found wearing a harness that could be weaponized, it was revealed that President Trump wears a similar harness. The evidence — a series of shirtless photographs of the president showing a similar harness to the whale — was leaked from government e-mails by a mysterious hacker known as Stiffbrim and released to news media. The attendant furor and disruption in the White House effectively shut down the government for 12 hours while they struggled to formulate a response.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary, appeared baffled at a news briefing. She was observed opening and closing her mouth several times speechlessly, “exactly as a whale might do,” according to an unidentified reporter from The Washington Post.
Indeed, the harness-wearing whale was not shy about approaching humans, opening its mouth apparently expecting fish, a telltale sign of previous training. Exactly what kind of training, no one is certain, but fingers are already pointing to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who, like our president, leads military strategy.
“It’s just a girdle,” Trump averred in a Tweet “Lots of men wear them.” In an unverified interview the President attempted to explain further, saying “It’s not a harness, it’s inside suspenders.” It could not be verified that lots of men wear them or if inside suspenders are a thing.
“We know that in Russia they have had domestic whales in captivity and also that some of these have apparently been released,” said Audun Rikardsen, professor at the department of arctic and marine biology at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT). “I contacted Russian researchers who said the harnessed whale had nothing to do with them. They tell me that most likely it escaped from the Russian navy in Murmansk,” Rikardsen said. The Murmansk Sea Biology Research Institute in northern Russia conducts research and training on behalf of the navy to see if beluga whales could be used to guard entrances to naval bases in arctic regions as well as to assist deep water divers and if necessary kill any strangers who enter their territory.
Interestingly, there is precedent to a spontaneous personal revelation by a U.S. sitting president. In September 1965 President Lyndon Johnson showed his gallbladder surgery scar to the press. Johnson’s reputation was damaged by the unprompted moment, with many people branding him a “country bumpkin.”
Despite the raging cold war at the time, there was no evidence the scar was controlled by the Kremlin.
Allegations of Control by Putin
While not a direct threat to the presidential office, the FBI immediately took a sample of the harness for analysis. (The president refused to hand over the entire apparatus.) Their findings were announced in an unusually candid moment. “Sophisticated electronics, some of it unrecognizable by experts,” said FBI’s Agent Kolstein who described the harness as nanotech-embedded leather — an array of impossibly small, complex, connected computers. “The good news,” he concluded, “is we tapped into the nano-network and found encrypted messages dating back three years. We’re working on decoding them. When we do, you’ll be the first to know.”
Agent Kolstein acknowledged the existence of friction between the President and the FBI. “Rest assured, if legal infractions are found they will be vigorously pursued according to the strictest application of the law,” he said.
Speculation Gone Wild
Naturally the Democrats are beside themselves with glee and anticipation. Speculation about the purpose of the harnesses and their obvious connection (note the hammer-and-sickle symbols on the harness clips in the above photo). A number of op-ed pieces sprung up claiming the whale was part of a secretive underwater special-ops unit. While it was true the harness had dual GoPro mounts that could easily house weapons, the assertion that they were attack animals could not be corroborated.
The use of animals for military purposes isn’t new. During World War I the British army tried to train seagulls to defecate on the periscopes of German U-boat, blinding submarine crews. Since 1959, the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program has trained bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to detect, locate, mark and recover objects in harbors, coastal areas, and deep sea.
During their research the Murmansk sea biology research institute concluded dolphins and seals were much more suited to the training and arctic climates than the Beluga whales. The whales were deemed too sensitive to the cold and did not have the same “high professionalism” of seals, which had a far better memory for remembering oral commands. They were dropped from the program.
Some have said — in defense of the president — that he, too, must no longer be a part of the program because he was deemed too sensitive to criticism and did not have the same “high professionalism” or reliable memory of other assets in the field. Despite this, a vocal minority maintain the president became president with Putin’s help via the harness interface.
Some of the locals joked that the whale had defected to Norway because it is refusing to stray more than a few miles from the northern harbor where it was discovered. Those opposed to Trump point to his focus on the next election as evidence he is under Vladimir Putin’s control: he, too — like the whale — must stay put, despite oft-expressed desire to return to the business world.
“Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial in political history,” his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen revealed in his opening remarks to Congress in February. “He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity.”
There is ample evidence that Trump’s presidential win was a direct result of a two-pronged Russian attack: the first was Russian hackers spreading disinformation on social media, and the second was Putin’s alleged puppet-mastering of Trump, who issued confusing and conflicting statements that followed no known logic yet tapped into a previously unknown constituency. The goal was to divide American society and foster anti-Americanism, which, Trump detractors claim, has been achieved. It was a political win for Putin and a marketing win for Trump.
Speculation intensified when Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Russian hackers used “nanobot armies to promote partisan causes on social media.” Nanotechnology is at an impossibly small scale, with one nanometer equivalent to one billionth of a meter (0.000000001 m), or, if you’re so inclined, 1×10−9 m. Some believe the Russians are light years ahead of the Americans when it comes to nanotechnology, especially military applications.
Predictably, the Russians deny any manipulation. An officer quoted by the media mocked the idea, arguing that the military would not be stupid enough to “leave their phone number” on an animal trained for clandestine activities.
Marine biologist Jorgen Ree Wiig told CNN: “The whale seemed playful but our instincts said that it was also asking for help to get out of the harness.” The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries succeeded in freeing it from the harness, after which it swam away. “It was the best feeling ever,” Wiig said.
“Maybe if we free Trump from his harness he won’t run in 2020,” U.S. Representative and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said. “We can always dream.”
by Darryl Benjamin, NECI Writing and Marketing Core Academic Instructor
Traveling 16 hours by nonstop air travel was not my idea of a good time. My girlfriend’s son had taken a job teaching English to young children in Taipei, Taiwan after graduating from college. Three months later, we decided to visit him. To be truthful, I wasn’t certain where Taiwan was.
It would be our first trip to Asia. I always secretly wondered if I had been Chinese in a previous life, because I’ve always been attracted to Chinese culture. Especially the food. Now here I was, flying over Alaska, staring at a map, noise-cancelling headphones plugged in, wishing I had learned Mandarin. In preparation, we had watched Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover: Taipei. If you haven’t seen the episode, he ricochets from market to landmark and back again in a blue-eyed mad rush, his senses in hyperdrive, distilling his experiences into a distinctly New York colloquial collage.
As I flew into Taiwan, I took inventory of what I had learned: Taipei is the largest city in Taiwan, a small island 521 miles from Shanghai on mainland China and 1300 miles southeast of Japan in the East China Sea (otherwise known as the Pacific Ocean). Historically, the island has been occupied by the Spanish, French, Dutch and Japanese, making it a melting pot of architecture, cultural sensibilities and food. Wait, did someone say food?
As soon as we settled into our hotel and after my girlfriend’s tearful reunion with her son, the three of us set off for a staple of Taiwan: beef noodle soup. There are two styles of beef noodle soup: a clear broth, with house-made noodles, bok-choy, ginger and tender beef, or the stronger, more flavorful dark broth. Both were delicious, satisfying and a meal unto itself. And who could argue with prices ranging from $2.50 to $3.00?
Enjoying Noodle Soup
Taiwan is famous for its numerous night markets. There are more than two dozen in the Taipei area alone, hawking everything from clothing, electronics and food, to cell phone accessories, touristy baubles and pets. The Shilin Night Market was a bustle of jostling people, polite though crowded, almost a single writhing organism bent on tasting as much of the fare in as short a time as possible. Taiwan is known worldwide for two distinct creations: pearl tea—chewy tapioca balls in bubble tea—which did not appeal to me, and soup dumplings, which did. In fact, soup dumplings may be an epic evolution in food development.
Simply stated, soup dumplings are dumplings with hot soup inside. But they are much more than that. They are mind-alteringly enchanting, an aromatic, cascading rush of savory, mouth-watering flavors and textures that are so good they could very well be addictive. At some point, however, the customer leans forward and wonders: How in the world do they manage to seal soup inside? What kind of chicanery and legerdemain is going on? All without making the outer shell soggy? We marveled that there are the same number of folds in each dumpling. How is this possible?
We learned the first step in preparation is to make a consommé. Then the stock is gelatinized, mixed with meat filling, quickly wrapped in fresh dough and then steamed together. Timing is key—the ingredients blend as the meat cooks, the broth reverts to liquid, and voila, you have a perfect shell without sogginess. The dumplings are served in small bamboo baskets. There are two techniques to eating: you can dip the dumpling in vinegar, nibble a tiny hole in the dumpling and let the soup drain into the spoon and then gulp it down, or you could gobble the dumpling whole, allowing it to explode in your mouth (riskier, since the soup is hot). And how do they taste? I would have to agree with Anthony Bourdain: “A deeply religious experience.”
One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to intentionally get lost. Put another way, I explore neighborhoods randomly, seeing what I can see. When I get hungry, I pop into the nearest restaurant that looks good—relatively clean, relatively full, with delicious-looking food being served. Frequently, I found myself in restaurants where no one spoke a word of English. The menu was only in Chinese. No problem—there’s an app for that! I whipped out my iPhone and scanned the Chinese words using Waygo, which instantly translated the text into English. Yum!
If you travel to Taiwan you will eventually cross paths with restaurants that offer a local delight that is somewhat less than delightful, at least to me: stinky tofu. For many tofu by itself is enough to strike fear and loathing into one’s heart, but stinky on top of being tofu? As the Bard said, “A little more than a little is by much too much.” The smell of stinky tofu has been likened to rotten garbage or manure. It is made from a brine-fermented milk, sometimes mixed with greens, bamboo shoots, herbs and shrimp. Preparation of the brine fermentation varies from a few days to a few months (that’s right, months). It is served cold, stewed, fried or steamed, accompanied by chili sauce.
I supposed it was an acquired taste, but decided it was one I would not acquire. Instead I chose to avoid the restaurants offering stinky tofu and follow the advice from The Analects by Confucius, a book of pithy Confucian wisdom I had purchased from a temple: “Confucius say, ‘Do not eat food that has turned and smells.’” Good advice. Of course he also said, “Do not keep meat overnight after a public sacrificial offering,” but fortunately I saw no such offerings during my visit.
When all was said and done, I left with a distinct feeling I had just touched the surface of the island. I knew I would return to explore the hidden back streets and alleys in search of hitherto unknown delicacies. How else could I stop dreaming of noodle soup and soup dumplings?
Originally Posted by The Bridge on October 17, 2012 Issues, Essays, Features, Food, News & Features
by Darryl Benjamin
When Cheryl Flanagan moved to Montpelier two and a half years ago, her husband was disabled. She was working part time. Although her family of four was on food stamps, it wasn’t enough: Halfway through the month they ran out of food. For two weeks they would skimp by on little or nothing. To make matters worse, Flanagan suffered from anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. “Our income was $1,800 per month,” she said. “We didn’t even come close to paying for our bills and food.”
Then they discovered the Montpelier Food Pantry. The food pantry is a nonprofit, charitable organization that distributes food to those who have difficulty making ends meet.
Flanagan experienced an enormous sense of relief. “We were so grateful. They had beans, canned vegetables, butter, eggs, cheese, cereal and even boxed food like stuffing and pasta. They were very generous with the amounts,” she said.
Flanagan’s family had used a food pantry in New Hampshire before moving to Vermont. “It was a totally different experience,” she said. “I felt embarrassed. We felt like a herd of cattle. For one thing, you couldn’t pick and choose what you wanted. They bring the food to you. Here in Montpelier, I could choose the things our children wanted to eat.”
If You Build It, They Will Come
The food-pantry concept is relatively new. Started in the ’60s in the U.S., it is now in over 20 countries under the Global Foodbanking Network. Here in the U.S., over 50 million people struggle with food insecurity. That’s a staggering one in six of the population.
From July 2011 to August 2012, the Montpelier Food Pantry served 365 households at least once, a total of 869 individuals. Who were these individuals? The numbers included 582 adults (including 80 seniors) and 307 children.
The Montpelier Food Pantry is open to every area resident. In fact, the only requirement is residency. “We eliminate all barriers to getting help,” said Director Kimberly Lashua. “We serve clients whether or not we perceive them to be deserving.”
During the year, a significant portion of the area population used the food pantry: 60 percent of households visited the pantry three times or less; 22 percent of households visited the pantry six times or more; 18 percent of households visited four to five times
What does it take to run a food pantry? For one thing, plenty of volunteers. Volunteers are key to the success of the pantry. It takes volunteers to glean, process, sort and acquire fresh foods. It takes volunteers to get the word out that food is available to help individuals and families through rough patches or sustain them over longer stretches.
“It’s nice to know that real food is getting to people,” said Caroline Thompson, a NECI student who recently volunteered. Volunteers come from all walks of life and are all ages yet share a common desire to contribute to the Montpelier community.
“You can see the enthusiasm, joy and hopefulness in the eyes of our volunteers,” Lashua says.
In August of 2012 Flanagan’s husband won a four-and-a-half-year battle with the military to qualify as disabled. Their income substantially increased. “I am so grateful we’re now in a position to give back,” she says. “We’ve given cash donations, and we’ve started a box. We fill the box with two-for-one deals from Price Chopper. We’ve got a list from the food pantry on what’s needed most, and we regularly buy those items.”
The food pantry receives food from a striking variety of sources. These include individual donors, area growers (notably, Dog River Farm), donations from the farmers’ market and even volunteer workers.
“It’s worth the extra effort in so many ways,” Lashua said. “We believe that access to healthy and nutritious foods is a basic human right.”
There is room for improvement. Misconceptions abound. Many people, for example, think the organization is government funded, which it is not. Many people confuse the food pantry with the Vermont Foodbank, a separate organization.
A food bank is a huge warehouse repository that accepts all types of products for redistribution. This includes food as well as nonfood products. Perishables are checked for quality, stored in refrigerated rooms and quickly distributed before they reach their expiration date. Meats are put into deep freeze, and canned goods and dry staples are stored and shelved. Food banks generally don’t distribute directly to individuals but rather to agencies or special programs that do.
A food pantry is one type of direct distribution agency that distributes food to individuals. Pantries are typically staffed by volunteers and sponsored by local faith communities. These volunteers may receive food through private donations, through the USDA commodities programs, or through a food bank network. Some pantries are in church basements (the Montpelier Food Pantry is administered out of Trinity Church, 137 Main Street, next door to the Kellogg-Hubbard Library), while others may be nothing more than a closet in a day-care facility.
Another challenge to fuller use of the food pantry is counteracting the shame or humiliation some people feel when receiving a charitable donation of food.
Perhaps more people would take advantage of the pantry if they listened to Flanagan. “The volunteers are so friendly, so without judgment; they practically take you by the hand and walk you through. They’re helpful, nice, chatty and answer any questions you may have. One needn’t feel embarrassed. It’s a heroic act to give and receive.”
Darryl Benjamin taught writing, food justice, and sustainability at the New England Culinary Institute for seven years.
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2019 — In a stunning, timely move, the USDA and FDA have collaborated to form a jointly managed Department of Biotech and Food (DBF) that opened for business on March 1, 2019.
The alliance reflects sorely needed leadership in the rapidly
developing food industry. The Department of Biotech and Food will oversee
expansion of all new science-based food initiatives, including GMOs, nanofoods,
CRISPR-cas9 gene edited foods, and lab-cultured, or “clean” meat.
As their first order of business, the DBF issued new legislation that bans “all foods that rot.”
The plan will be implemented over a ten-year period. One of the purported benefits of the new policy is the elimination of “Use by” and “Best by” dates.
waste tons of food per year,” says Burpee Ruhjblott, who will head up the
agency. Ruhjblott is winner of the Food & Ag Industry’s most prestigious
prize — the “Real Food Award” — for his work on Coconut Mango Foam using
pioneering molecular gastronomy techniques. “Waste will be reduced to near
zero,” he recently said in a Wall Street
Journal article. “So-called Big Ag has received a bad rap over the decade,
and we aim to fix it, backed by solid biotech,” he said. “We’re taking on this hunger
thing in a big way. We intend to knock it out of the park.”
The scientific community has shown uncharacteristic enthusiasm
and confidence in rushing breakthroughs to the market. In the peer-reviewed
journal Better Eating through Biotech, rigorous
experiments (90-day rat trials) empirically proved there is no cause to worry.
GRAS at Work
The newly formed DBF issued a policy statement, stating,
among other things, “Foods developed in laboratories via biotechnology are Generally
Recognized as Safe (GRAS).”
Critics point out that foods at the nano scale pass freely through the
blood-brain barrier and have shown up in mother’s milk, crossing the placenta
with no problem. “If it was toxic, that’d be another story,” said Anton
Persikovich, Professor and Scientist at Vladivostok Institute of Technology.
Persikovich authored the policy paper for Dow Pharma & Food Solutions before
it was written into law by the new DBF.
We’re expecting lab-cultured hamburgers on
the market by 2020. “No problem! The fact that in order to grow the cow stem
cells in Fetal Bovine Serum, scientists stick a needle into the heart of a
newborn calf and kill it to extract the vital fluids that keep cultured tissue
alive so we can grow these juicy burgers, is justified by the number of cow
lives it saves—and reduction of greenhouse gases, too, of course,” said Brad
Postum, instrumental in the development of the new technique. “And by the way,
contrary to rumors, I haven’t heard of a single instance of anyone growing
human parts for consumption using my techniques. We’re not animals.”
Finally, recent concerns have been voiced about “exact
scissor-cutting precision” techniques in editing genes using CRISPR-cas9,
an enzyme that snips genetic material to improve food quality, reduce
allergens, and promote select characteristics. Reports indicate that the
approach may not be as precise as we have been led to think.
“Stuff and nonsense,” said Karen Strempson, spokesperson for
DowDuPont Inc. and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and Harvard University, developers of the nascent gene-editing
technology. “Those findings are misbegotten. We know precisely what we’re doing.”
Concerns about biotech-developed foods have been expressed by slow-food advocates Dan Barber and Anthony Bourdain as early as 2016. Excerpts from a jointly signed open letter to The New York Times declare, “We cannot support what we feel is fake food. Where is the love? Where is the joy? Nature took millions of years to develop synergies between nature and the human gut biome. Gastronomy is an art, not a science. Do we really know what we’re doing? Good food rots. Caveat Emptor!”
Our intrepid reporter Govinda Johnson was fortunate enough to be granted a five-minute interview with the President to discuss the new agency.
“Whenever scientists get excited over a new technique, we’re interested,” the President said. “We have an awful lot of people to feed and we have the technology to do it, so why not?”
Then, in a whimsical moment, the President turned the tables. “Would you eat food that rots? I don’t think so. You should eat only healthy food, like me.” He held up two Big Macs, one in each hand. “All food is good food. This is as fresh as it gets.”
I delivered this workshop on January 30, 2019, at The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke MA. More than 10 farms from the Pioneer Valley were represented by the attendees. The workshop was sponsored by an admirable nonprofit, CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture).
UMass Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Online Student Donna Turner Woods Interviews Darryl Benjamin on “Nanotechnology in Agriculture and Food” for her final paper in Professor Renee Ciulla’s Global Food Systems class.
DTW: Since we know what Nanotechnology is and how it was originally being used for replication of matter, should there be concern if it used in agriculture – crops and livestock, and human and animal consumption that replication of cells will take place? Meaning once ingested, the replication process might latch onto the human and animal cells. What would the consequences be?
DB: Nanotechnology is a giant leap forward in the manufacturing, energy, electronics, and computing fields, but I’m not so sure I want it in my food. Engineering food is a tricky business because there are always unintended consequences. Scientists tend to focus on a narrow spectrum of study that verifies preconceived outcomes. But it took millions of years to evolve the human body, so I question the safety of nanofoods, which has only been around for half a dozen years.
The tiny size of nanomaterials permits them to pass more easily through cell membranes and other biological barriers, allowing these particles to be easily taken up into organisms and cause cellular dysfunction. Potential risks to humans include DNA damage leading to cancer, brain, and heart illnesses. Scientists need to look at the whole picture and conduct decades of testing before the biological interdependencies and complexities of living systems can be sufficiently evaluated as safe enough to put nanoparticles in our food.
DTW: We know about GMOs/GEOs which are gene and DNA altering seed and its effects on crops – the plants themselves, crop yields, and the environment – soil and water absorption (Leopold Study 2013) but what we do not know is the long-term effects they have on human and animal consumption. Is there any data on Nano consumption? If there is are there safety parameters in place for human and animal consumption of Nanos? Meaning, the amount one can consume before it becomes harmful? If so, how is it measured?
DB: You bring up an important point. Just as GMOs quietly entered the food supply, so too did nanoparticles in food. Unfortunately, no nanotechnology-specific regulation or safety testing is required before manufactured nanomaterials can be used in food, food packaging, or agricultural products. Unlike GMOs where there are conflicting studies, there are almost no data on nanoparticles in food. We know nanoparticles can be more chemically reactive and more bioactive than larger particles of the same chemicals, and that greater bioactivity may introduce new toxicity risks, but where are the studies?
We should be concerned not just about consumption, but workers who may encounter nanomaterials during production, packaging, transport, distribution, and waste disposal of food and agrochemicals. Studies have shown that nanomaterials can enter the bloodstream via the lungs simply by inhaling — raising major occupational health and safety concerns.
The lack of standards and internationally recognized measurement methods, coupled with the shrouding of the nanotechnology industry and bolstered by lack of regulation has created significant challenges to simply understanding where nanomaterials are being used and the reality of their interactions with the public and our environment.
Transparency would require all relevant data related to safety assessments, and the methodologies used to obtain them, to be placed in the public domain. Manufacturers should work with regulators to ensure that their products have undergone appropriate safety testing, and provide the relevant data regarding the health and environmental safety of their product.
Regulation should require the guiding principle of “No data, no market” to verify the safety of engineered food instead of “Release into the food supply first, assess risks later.”
DTW: What are the benefits of nanotechnology when used in all areas of agriculture?
DB: There are many, and more are being developed almost every day. A Cornell University team headed by textile scientist Margaret Frey developed a cloth farmers can use to reduce the amount of crop agrichemicals. Planted along with seeds, the cloth’s saturated nano fibers slowly release pesticides and herbicides so that additional spraying of crops becomes unnecessary. The targeted release also eliminates chemical leaching into the water supply to benefit both consumers and the environment.
Another pro is chicken feed to remove campylobacter — feed enriched by nano carbohydrate particles binds with the bacterium’s surface to remove it through the bird’s feces. When used in chickens, it might reduce the one million annual outbreaks of campylobacteriosis in America.
There are countless other applications being developed, including nanocapsules for delivery of pesticides, fertilizers, and other agrichemicals more efficiently, nanosensors for monitoring soil conditions and crop growth and for detection of animal and plant pathogens; and — according to developers — targeted genetic engineering to deliver trait-enhancing DNA to plants.
DTW: Is Nanotechnology being used in the development of a “new seed” replacing GMOs/GEOs?
DB: Novel genes are being incorporated into seeds and sold in the market. Research on “smart seeds” programmed to germinate under favorable conditions with nanopolymer coating (encapsulation) is underway. Tracking of sold seeds could be done with the help of nanobarcodes that allow electronic tracking.
Seeds are also using nanocoatings to prevent disease spread and seed death by pathogens while in storage. Nanocoating of seeds using nanoparticles (1 billionth of a meter, or 25,250,000th of an inch) of Zinc, Manganese, Protactinium, Platinum, Gold, Silver are said to be used in far less quantities than used today. A technique known as quantum dots (QDs) is a fluorescence marker coupled with immuno-magnetic separation for E coli 0157:H7, which will be useful to separate unviable and infected seeds.
DTW: If so, what are the environmental consequences of using Nano-seed in agriculture? Water usage and absorption? Soil integrity? and Waste?
DB: All of these excellent questions are unanswered because of lack of balanced, unbiased, long-term research. There is, however, an abundance of enthusiasm and publicity around studies that promote the new technology.
One example reported in Science News says, “With potential adverse health and environmental effects often in the news about nanotechnology, scientists are reporting that carbon nanotubes could have beneficial effects in agriculture. Their study found that tomato seeds exposed to CNTs germinated faster and grew into larger, heavier seedlings than other seeds. That growth-enhancing effect could be a boon for biomass production for plant-based biofuels and other agricultural products, they suggest.”
It appears that in our enthusiasm to embrace new, profitable research we discard common sense, which would dictate testing on organisms for at least a generation. Instead, it appears that these products are ushered into the marketplace without scrutiny as a fait accompli.
DTW: We also know that Monsanto had recently gotten a federal law passed, what is known as, The Dark Act which states that GMOs/GEOs are not required to be listed on the labels of food products; and has stripped the States of their power in controlling the farming of and labeling of GMOs/GEOs. Since Monsanto is still not aware, or should we say the public is not aware, of the long-term ramifications from consumption of the food products – The Dark Act also includes a cap on damages should the public sue for the side effects from the consumption of GMOs/GEOs.
Would the Dark Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know) (DARK) Act include Nanotechnology or is it GMO/GEO specific?
DB: At this time, nanofood is flying below the radar and is not included in The Dark Act. In effect, it means manufacturers have a blank check to use nanotech at will in agriculture and in food. There are FDA guidelines, but they are toothless. Fortunately, there are organizations such as the Center for Food Safety who seek to establish a precautionary policy both at home and abroad to “safeguard human health and the natural environment.” They urge regulations that ensure transparent oversight and communication in nanotechnologies’ effects and social impacts.
DTW: Now that Bayer is in the last stages of acquiring/owning Monsanto Ag Business have you heard anything about their research heading into the direction of nanotechnology? I ask because Monsanto had shied away from nanotechnology staying with GMOs/GEOs only.
DB: When Robert Shapiro (then CEO of Monsanto) was asked what he believed was the world’s most promising future technologies, he replied, “There are three, although I have a feeling that under some future unified theory they will turn out to be just one. The first is, of course, information technology …the second is biotechnology …and the third is nanotechnology.”
However, because many of the same criticisms of GMOs apply to nanofood, I believe Monsanto is indeed gun-shy about nanotech. That doesn’t mean they’re giving up on new bio-engineered foods. Far from it. Monsanto is putting its money on an even newer technology called CRISPR, or gene editing, which is reportedly more precise than GMOs. On September 22, 2016, Monsanto announced they had obtained the exclusive license to the CRISPR-Cas genome-editing technology from the Broad Institute at Harvard University and MIT. Like Nanofood and GMOs, CRISPR is being embraced without oversight.
DTW: Do you see the Nanotechnology industry being transparent so that public trust will be established?
DB: I believe I have previously answered that question.
DTW: Will the consumer learn what products have Nanotechnology use, i.e., the product packaging that used nanotechnology wrappings, etc.?
DB: Only if legislation forces them to label, which, as was previously addressed, is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
DTW: There is support for the use of nanotechnology in the food wrappers to detect/prevent spoilage for longer shelf life; but, what are other benefits from nanotechnology when used in foods?
DB: Other purported benefits for Nanofoods include the immediate detection of E. coli bacteria in a food sample; if Salmonella bacteria are present, for example, the nano-sized dye particles become visible. There is no need to send out to the lab and wait days for culturing results; improved solubility of vitamins, antioxidants, healthy omega oil fractions and other nutrients; nano-nutrient particles are fully soluble and invisible in water and oil, widening the door for potential nutraceutical beverages; nanobarcodes from nanoparticles that contain silver and gold stripes varying in width, length, and amount, create billions of combinations to tag individual products; barcodes have been primarily used to assure brand and authenticity in pharmaceuticals — applications are forthcoming that trace food batches; food technologists say food spreadability and stability improve as a result of incorporating multiple nano-emulsions — for example, a low-fat mayonnaise formulation provides a satisfying fatty mouth feel — extra stabilizers and thickeners aren’t needed to achieve the desirable texture. The nano-emulsion could have its application in formulating other low-fat products; and novel flavors such as cold and creamy based on a rethinking of how taste buds perceive flavor — researchers identified which individual cells on a given taste bud perceive a flavor. Each cell would recognize just one of the five main flavors — bitter, salty, sweet, sour and umami. One company has developed a library of flavors, including compounds called bitter blockers. These specialized molecules trick the tongue into not tasting the bitterness in foods such as cocoa or soy.
CREVE COEUR, MISSOURI, June 30 — in a ground-breaking move, Monsanto, a multi-national biotechnology corporation, acquired rights to the sun in a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision, led by Clarence Thomas, was hailed by Monsanto President and CEO Hugh Grant as “good news for food producers, food consumers, and the future of humanity.”
Monsanto is known worldwide for its Roundup brand, an herbicide that works in conjunction with genetically engineered seeds.
The decision allows solar energy used by Monsanto-crop farmland — including solar panels, wind turbines and the like — to be taxed at a rate of 10% per kilowatt hour. Approved in an unprecedented three months, the law will go into effect January 1, 2013. Companies, organizations and individuals currently using Roundup products will receive one free year of sunlight before the 10% tithe is active.
According to the new regulation, any action to “store, reuse or redirect” sunlight will be a prosecutable offense unless authorized by Monsanto. Failure to comply with the law may result in a visit by Monsanto’s secretive “Watt” Police. Monsanto typically uses lawsuits or the threat of lawsuits to bring compliance. “We feed the world,” Grant says, “anyone caught stealing sunlight from us is stealing food from the mouths of millions.”
Sunlight, which most life on earth relies on, provides warmth, photosynthesis for plant life, and is used widely on beaches.
Opponents such as Greenpeace and “Sunshine for All,” a crowdsourced Facebook movement, vow to fight the ruling. “First they patent life, then they insert genes into our food supply, now they’re hijacking the sun. Monsanto seeks world domination and the Supreme Court is enabling them. Shame on you, Supreme Court,” says Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.
HEAVEN—January 9At 12:01am today Eastern Standard Time God shut down heaven for business. “It’s true, I’m not happy,” he said in a tweet dated 12:02am, “In seven days I created the earth and all its inhabitants, which was no small feat. But humans are destroying it.”
Reports of rioting and looting at St. Peter’s Gate indicate frustration over a backup that — according to divine authorities — could last “a couple hundred years.” As for now, those awaiting judgment have been asked to create two neat lines.
No one has thus far solved the waste problem, as millions of people are defecating and urinating from St. Peter’s Gate to as far as the eye can see. Several iron bars and priceless pearls have been torn from the Gate, but just as quickly restored by unseen heavenly agents.
Multiple anecdotal reports attest that Jesus was handing out free cups of water (some say wine) in a show of sympathy for the stranded.
In an exclusive interview with God, our intrepid reporter Govinda Johnson asked, “When do you expect to let people back in Heaven?”
“As far as I’m concerned, they can all go to that other place,” God said. “Look, it should be clear I’m a little ticked off. If you gave me a Rembrandt, and I wiped my ass with it, you’d be ticked off too. But since you ask, I’ll tell you what it will take.
“It will take corporations to voluntarily dismantle or open all their internal communications to public scrutiny. Trade secrets will remain proprietary, but ethical use of products and services will be subject to nonprofit oversight and public record. Next, all corporate ties to governments everywhere must be severed. They are counterproductive and at odds with each other and ultimately spell doom for the greater population. Next, I want to see the complete revitalization of natural resources. Restoration of the purity of water, land, and air to pre-industrial levels are minimum requirements before I open up them pearly gates.”
“That’s a tall order,” Govinda Johnson said.
“It’s either that or mass destruction and death,” God said, throwing up his hands. “Not my fault. They did it to themselves.”
“Wouldn’t some people consider that blackmail? What about the optics?”
“Fuck the optics. I don’t see how resetting balance to the world I created should be a problem. If it wasn’t out of kilter we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I think it was a human who said, ‘Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.’”
“I see. So humanity is to blame. I get it. But what’s to prevent it from happening again?”
When I was a kid, my older brother lived on Thompson Street in Greenwich Village, and he was the first to introduce me to a bevy of unusual restaurants. There was the macrobiotic restaurant with long, rough-hewn picnic tables (inside and downstairs) populated by hippies drinking Mu Tea and eating delightful but unrecognizable fare, or the Asia de Cuba restaurant born out of a blended Cuban and Chinese cuisine, plus countless other eateries. Never once did I think of these places as innovative or startups, as they are now called. I just thought they were cool restaurants. And I was right; they were cool, delivering unique culinary adventures with every bite.
But what is the difference between a startup and an innovator? Let’s take a moment to distinguish them before we take a look at 10 of the most impressive restaurant innovators and startups of today.
According to Steve Blank, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford, UC Berkeley, and senior fellow at Columbia, a startup is “an organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” The key word is “search.” This is the first stage in your restaurant’s operations. Psychologically, a startup lays claim to perceptions of fresh, young, vibrant, and on the cusp of mercurial financial success. Indeed, a startup trades stability for the possibility of rapid growth and the potential of immediate impact. Typically, startups assume the title for no longer than three years, although there are exceptions. “Keeping that dynamic culture gets much harder with every new employee and with every year that passes,” notes Matt Salzberg, CEO and cofounder of Blue Apron.
The Perennial. Photo Credit: Alanna Hale
An essential element of a startup is its ability to grow: It must be poised to develop quickly. Finally, a startup is frequently financed by venture capitalists, taking a chance that your startup restaurant will be a hit. How do you know when you’re no longer a startup? A strong foundation allows you to scale up with confidence. Once you’ve moved out of the first stage and actively build your restaurant, you’re no longer a startup.
Innovation is a new way of doing things. It attracts both foodies and critics. But restaurant innovation is not as easy as it might appear. Innovation must satisfy a number of requirements, starting with the obvious — attracting new customers, staying relevant, and maintaining a unique selling point (USP). To be a true innovator, however, you must show accountability of operational costs and sales growth. The sad truth is that 60 percent of restaurants fail within the first 3 years. Gimmicks won’t work. Innovation needs to transcend trends and fads. It must improve how you operate your restaurant and increase your chances of success.
Creative genes must run in the family. Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal is determined to change the way Americans eat by bringing the farm closer to the table with the Memphis-based Kitchenette, offering locally sourced fast food at $5 a pop. His second startup is called Next Door: “We want to replace all the T.G.I. Friday’s, Applebee’s — at a price point that is arguably even lower than those guys,” Musk says. “We still serve burgers, salads and so forth, but it’s local. It’s healthy. And it’s inexpensive.”
Poke, anyone? Translated from Hawaiian, poke means “to slice or cut” and relates to chunks of raw, marinated fish, usually tuna, tossed over rice and topped with vegetables and umami-based sauces. It’s been called “the next generation of sushi.” A poke wave has emerged that is rivalling fast food and quick service restaurants. PokéWorks, Poke Bowl, and Poke King are examples of these mushrooming startups.
Speaking of mushrooms, Smallhold, a Brooklyn-based startup, offers restaurants the unique ability to grow high quality, organic mushrooms and leafy greens on-site using climate-controlled chambers, or minifarms, with special lighting and water circulation technology. The result is “40 times the output per square foot of a traditional farm with 96 percent less water usage, longer shelf-life and less packaging.” Their promise is to “grow mushrooms anywhere, without being a farmer.”
Since Blue Hill at Stone Barns opened in 2004, it has earned a reputation as a premier farm-to-table restaurant. Their USP is to integrate the dining experience with the surrounding environment as intimately as possible: “Sourcing from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms, Blue Hill at Stone Barns highlights the abundance of the Hudson Valley. There are no menus at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Instead, guests are offered a multi-taste feast featuring the best offerings from the field and market.” Guests can also take a tour of one of their farms.
When I was even younger than my Greenwich Village experiences, my father used to take me to the Horn & Hardart automat in New York City where stacks of cubby holes with windows waited for hungry walk-ins. Pea soup! Tuna sandwiches! No personal service whatsoever. It seems everything old is new again, but this time updated with modern technology and tastes: Eatsa is totally automated. Guests order via iPads and the food is delivered through glass compartments. Their USP is to “deliver a magical customer experience, while serving more customers, faster and more efficiently.” Using the Internet of Things, Eatsa is always improving operational efficiencies using analytics to promote customer loyalty and realize higher efficiencies at lower cost. And with beautifully prepared, healthy food like the winter harvest salad with quinoa and winter veggies—not to mention the bento, burrito, curry and falafel bowls—it is definitely not my daddy’s automat. Most entrees are $6.95.
A restaurant with its own sustainable fish farm? That would be The Perennial, a San Francisco-based, self-described “upscale New American bistro serving locally sourced, eco-friendly fare in industrial-chic quarters.” The Perennial operates a 2,000-square-foot aquaponic greenhouse in Oakland that converts food waste from the restaurant into food for fish which in turn fertilize vegetable and herb production. The restaurant also serves climate-beneficial beef produced by Stemple Creek Ranch using the carbon farming protocol developed by the Carbon Cycle Institute.
Are You Ready to Launch a Startup or Innovate Your Restaurant?
Rapid growth of locally sourced, plant-based, transparent, healthy, seasonal, and convenient food continues to accelerate. Here are some tips and observations on how to get it right the first time:
Understand that true innovation improves margins, efficiencies, and environmental sustainability, benefitting your business and the consumer.
Seek out collaborations and investments in emerging companies.
Balance your efforts to attract new customers and/or enhance customer experience with innovative analytics to identify improvements in your restaurant’s operation.
Maintain perfect consistency while simultaneously being innovative and trailblazing.
Imbed creativity and learning across your restaurant by creating a culture of collaborative input and thoughtful development.
Demonstrate that attention to detail can exist side-by-side with dynamic development.
Consider delivery services, pre-prepared food, and booking aggregators.