Sunday, May 16, 2010

A (Bon)Soiled Reputation

I found out something interesting today.

Apparently, all Bonsoy soy milk was recalled not too long ago. Something to do with iodine which has apparently caused thyroid problems in a bunch of people. Naturally, when I heard the news I had a minor panic. I had to have some blood tests this morning to check my parathyroid and I used to work in a café that served Bonsoy as its primary soy option. I had coffees with the stuff most days. Not because I thought it was healthy or any of that but because damn, that stuff is tasty. But don't worry, further research has revealed that the thyroid and the parathyroid are completely different things and, as previously hypothesised, I'm a complete and total hypochondriac.

But I'm glad I read about this Bonsoy thing. As you probably know, I spend a lot of time reading. One area I'm interested in, being a vegetarian and all, is the ethics of food production, including organic foods and genetic modification. It's a very interesting subject. I've read a lot of arguments against genetic modification in food products and, as with most subjects, some are more convincing than others. But there's one argument I've never liked that keeps coming up. When certain strains of fruit or vegetable are modified to, let's say, became more resistant to pests, they obviously test them to see whether they have any serious side-effects on people who consume them. When the modifications are shown to be harmless you often hear someone saying that sure, now it seems like there's nothing wrong with it, but hey! You don't know if it will turn out to hurt us in the future!

I hate this argument. For those against genetic modification I would hasten to bring up the fact that the work of scientists like this excellent dude have meant that crops have been able to be provided to buttloads of people who would otherwise have died of starvation. But whether GM foods are good or bad is not the point here. The point is that if you're going to try and ban something based on a completely hypothetical future where it might turn out to be bad for you, you should apply it across the board. Ban everything that could maybe one day turn out to cause some kind of problem. Oh wait, that's EVERYTHING.

And this Bonsoy thing proves a neat little point. You see, the kind of people who use that argument are usually the kind of people you see drinking soy milk. And no, that doesn't apply to all soy milk drinkers. As I said, there are some of us that just drink it because it's super delicious. But there is a specific sub-section of soy drinkers that can be summed up with one word: hippies.

I'm sorry hippies, but you know it's true.

You see them when you do café work. They come in groups for their soy chai lattes, always with their babies in hand-made booties. I sometimes wonder if those babies are present because the parents also hand-crafted their own condoms. There was a drink at my favourite little café in Newcastle that was a latte with soy milk and dandelion extract, written on the menu as an L.S.D. If that's not aimed squarely at this exact demographic, I don't know what is.

Some of them drink it because they're vegan, some of it drink it because maybe they heard it has some kind of health benefit (I also see that a lot with gluten-free products). Some drink it because, well, maybe it's just the culture. They're the type of people who only buy food with the word 'organic' on the label. And don't get me started on that old pearl. The problem is, you can define 'organic' as any product derived from a living organism. Technically, it's true. It may have been ground up with the hooves of a thousand mutated puppies living their lives in a perpetual hell, but if it comes from a living organism, it's technically organic. Then you can sell that product with the word 'organic' on the label. Maybe you're not supposed to, but nor are you supposed to use misleading pictures to make your food more appetising than it is. If it's technically legal and it can rake in the dollars, people will do it.

Then they bring out 'certified' organic. There are actual certifications that you can get that your food is organic. The ACO certification is, I believe, a good one. But unfortunately, these certifications aren't compulsory for any food using the label of 'organic'. And as a result, there's nothing stopping some marketing genius from making up his own certification to make it look genuine. The word 'certified' means nothing if you don't know anything about who is doing the certifying. You can't just take their word for it. It could just be some guy in a factory taking the packaging and saying 'This bread is organic, as certified by my dick.' That'll be $15 a loaf, don't forget the canvas bags.

But now, as if specifically formulated for me to prove a point, it turns out that of all the things that are making people sick, it turns out it's the soy milk. Even better, the ingredient in Bonsoy that was causing all the trouble? It was the SEAWEED EXTRACT. If you're eating something that contains anything derived from a plant that was grown underwater, that's instant hippie credibility. And then it turns out THAT'S what's bad for them.

And no, it's not all soy milk that was harmful and Bonsoy is back on the shelves now, the problem having been rectified but, really. You can't help but love that sort of irony.

-Smackie Onassis

P.S. There is a new poll, based on the results of the last poll. As requested (by Vegatrain) I am keeping this one open for a bit longer.


  1. Fucking Organic food is bullshit. Bysshe and I buy our fruit and veg from a weekley farmers market. It probably just so happens that the majority of the produce there *is* organic, but we never buy from farmers who are advertising that their product is organically grown. Who wants to pay more money for worse food.

    The only real argument for organic food that holds any amount of water to me is the fact that you're supporting a local farmer rather than giving more money to huge conglomerates like Woolworths. Now, that's a very nebulous statement, and your mileage may vary on the truth in that statement. However, I'd rather give money to ANYBODY than to Woolworths or Coles. I just don't harbor any illusions that I'm somehow saving the world just by buying food that may (or may not be) organic.

    Also - Re: your poll. I actually know somebody who actually used to be a kid on Home and Away. True story.

  2. Agree totally. I think one of the most valid points against the organics movement is the fact that if all the world's food were grown by their methods, there would be enough to feed, I think it was about two thirds of the worlds population. Who decides who starves? PETA? Don't get me started on PETA.

    Oh man, everybody knows somebody who was on a soap. That was why I included it, haha. Apparently a guy I used to do amateur theatre with had a recurring role on Neighbours not too long ago, however I have not watched network tv since this has happened so I would not know.