Australian Fair Food Forum

New Foods and New Food Technologies to watch!

This is quite extraordinary. It will be big in time. Look at their job listings for expansion plans:

Lovely website!

I think the Lord of the Fries burgers are all meat-free - try one next time you’re going through a train station, I’m not sure the meat-eaters are falling over themselves to get them yet! :slight_smile:

There are already some great meat substitutes out there. Do we really need to resort to genetically modifying yeast?


Yet more soy and wheat in our diet and now with added GM yeast-created heme. I think our diets are lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables, not highly processed soy and wheat. I feel it would be more sustainable if instead of selling dodgy burgers we ensured that the ‘foodshed’ of our cities, towns and remoter areas had fresh food growing and providing a nutritious diet. Slick marketing with a guiltwash for companies to profit from is a familiar sight. What would be nice is to see the food and health needs of communities to be put as a priority.


I wonder that we don’t sometimes let the perfect get in the way of the good. While burgers - particularly in the US - are a standard dietary component for millions each day, while not perfect, this may represent a colossal shift towards healthier outcomes for humans, animals and planet.

Hi Peter, The whole issue is cloaked and not transparent and therefore it is hard to claim any healthier outcomes for humans, animals and the planet. What we do know is that the ingredient list looks like any other processed food:

Full Ingredient List:
Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.
Soy, Wheat

Then we get a very partial look at what they are doing:
Yes. We genetically engineer yeast to make a key ingredient: heme. The process allows us to produce the Impossible Burger at scale with the lowest achievable environmental impact.
We start with the gene for a protein called leghemoglobin, a heme protein that is naturally found in the root nodules of soy plants. Leghemoglobin is similar to myoglobin, the heme protein that is exceptionally abundant in animal muscles, binds oxygen and gives meat its unique flavor and aroma, as well as its red or pink color.

We add the soy leghemoglobin gene to a yeast strain, and grow the yeast via fermentation. Then we isolate the leghemoglobin, or heme, from the yeast. We add heme to the Impossible Burger to give it the intense, meaty flavor, aroma and cooking properties of animal meat.
By producing our heme in yeast, we avoid digging up soy plants to harvest the root nodules, which would promote erosion and release carbon stored in the soil. This enables us to produce heme sustainably at high volume and make plant-based meat for millions of people, offsetting the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

This is PR spin without any real explanation. To genetically engineer yeast may cause unknown changes. Showa Denko was a Japanese manufacturer who used GM bacteria to create the supplement L-Tryptophan. It was 99% pure and yet it resulted in the illness of thousands of and the deaths of several people. You can read all about it and the cover up in “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth” by Stephen Druker.

The impossible burger assumes that a soy gene that produces the desired protein can be put into a yeast and produce the desired substance, and nothing else. It would be interesting to find out exactly what tests have been done to confirm this. With the L-Tryptophan the company used 4 generations of GM bacteria. Each one produced more toxin that the last, although all of them were very small concentrations. Unfortunately the toxin was extremely potent. Even then it took a long time for anyone to realise there was a problem as their symptoms were unusual and they were widely dispersed geographically. So any GM yeast would need to be constantly checked to ensure that it is in fact producing what it is claimed to be producing, and nothing else.

Next what is the GM yeast being fed? Is it sugar? Would this then create a huge demand for monocultures of sugar beet (GM) or sugar cane plantations? The monocultures are what creates disease both in humans and plants.

Next what happens to the GM yeast and waste products? Are they toxic? Will they create genetic pollution? DNA can exist outside a lifeform and is known as ‘naked’ DNA. It can be picked up and incorporated by other living things ie bacteria and yeast. In China in 2012 they discovered anti-biotic resistant bacteria were 25% of all the bacteria in the six rivers they tested. They had acquired their resistance from GM experiments or plants. The analysis of these bacteria showed the constructs that gave them anti-biotic resistance had not developed naturally. No similar experiments have been done in Australia or the US or anywhere else to see what existing changes GM crops and experimentation has done to the environment.

Yeast and bacteria are also in the air we breathe. What could happen if the happy little GM process misleadingly called ‘fermentation’ created something toxic that would then become unable to be recalled?
I don’t know if you watch Dr Who but the last episode was about a GM experiment going wrong and creating a bacteria that produced ethanol and killed plants. This is actually what nearly happened a few years ago:

“In 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency was only a few weeks away from ending life on the planet as we know it,” so writes George Lawton in the April, 2001 issue of Acres USA (“A Voice For Eco-Agriculture”).

Lawton reports that the EPA, although only having done limited tests at that time on a variety of genetically engineered microbes, all of which had been approved for release into the atmosphere, were prepared to approve the release of a GE variant of Klepbsiella planticola (KP), one of the most common bacteria on the planet

“This particular variety of KP,” he writes, "had the unique ability to convert dead plant matter into alcohol. It was hoped that this would provide a way for farmers to transform their unused stalks, leaves and other types of compost material into alcohol, which could be used for washing, running vehicles, etc.

“The EPA had done a variety of tests on this organism, all of which indicated that it would not be toxic to humans or animals. They were only a few weeks away from releasing these (GM) bacteria into the wild, when Michael Holmes, a graduate student at the University of Oregon, came looking for an interesting thing to study for his doctoral thesis.”

Under the direction of his academic advisor, Elaine Ingham, Holmes elected to do his thesis on the effects of this genetically engineered KP on plants, something which had not occurred to the EPA, as it was not required for the release of new genetically modified organisms, Lawton notes in his Acres USA expose.

Holmes study revealed, after testing samples of plants growing in sterile soil, soil with regular KP and soil with genetically engineered KP, that no plants in the latter soil were growing as the alcohol produced by the bacteria had killed them all.

At the time, Lawton notes, the EPA was envisioning that farmers would use these bacteria in a kind of fermenting process to convert plant material into a mixture of 17% alcohol and 83% mineral sludge, which could be poured off into the soil and reused.

“If that had occurred, the genetically engineered KP could have colonized the entire planet over the course of several years, turning all of the soil where it grew into barren dirt.”

Ingham said that problem was and still is that the EPA only looks at the immediate impact of new genetically modified organisms on animals, and does not take into account the larger impact on the ecosystem as a whole. That approach can work to a limited extent when working with chemicals, which can break down and dissipate over time. But living organisms have the ability to procreate and overwhelm the natural ecosystem."

This is why I see the Impossible Burger and a whole bunch of guiltwashing and PR to sell a product that is potentially hazardous in ways that we either cannot foresee or refuse to explore. Do we need to alter our diets? Of course. Do we need to look at what our local areas produce in their ‘foodsheds’ and learn to live happily with that? Yes. Do we also need to look at fair trade and fair food for all? Yes. Will that need real conversation and investigation and experimentation? Yes and it’s past time that we did this.

I see the Impossible Burger as another part of the systemic problem that has divorced us from our bodies, each other and the land and done it in the name of profit and progress. I think we need a system change, not another product.


@frances you are a force of nature!! :slight_smile: