Saturday, November 1, 2014

TownHall Promises to Vanquish Franken-foods

Yesterday was Halloween and also marked the end of GMO Awareness Month. As you gobble your kids' candy bars, take a minute to ask yourself if you really know where your food is coming from. TownHall co-owner Bob George does, but only because he's been relentlessly tracking down every item in the kitchen in his mission to weed out any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by 2015.

It's a controversial topic. Altering the genomes of plants and animals through selective breeding for desired traits (sweet corn, for example) has occurred for years. But recent genetic advances have allowed scientists to incorporate new genes directly from one species into another to improve agricultural performance. The practice has created arguments on both sides of the aisle: Supporters say GMOs will help feed an increasing world population, while opponents say it's largely untested, unregulated and potentially harmful.

"TownHall's menu is based around trying to create an anti-inflammatory diet," says George. "You can be eating clean foods — clean meats and vegetables — and a low-glycemic diet, but if you're eating GMO products, it's going to have the same effect on your intestines and your body and your mind that processed foods do."

George and his business partners understand that this switch will affect their bottom line, but the issue is important enough to them that they're steaming ahead, adding new dishes and pulling favorite menu items that don't measure up.

"People loved the pork chop I took off, but it's just like, Sorry, it doesn't fit our brand," George says. He struggled to find a suitable replacement for the pork, which is considered GMO because its feed has been genetically modified, that once starred in this dish. 

"I don't want to feed my family [GMOs]," he says. "And if I don't carry a product at my house, I'm not going to serve it at my restaurant."

Management at TownHall takes this issue so seriously that George even assigns new employees homework, asking them to watch Genetic Roulette, the movie, then having them write an essay and take a test on what they've learned. 

Curious how your own knowledge of GMOs measures up? Quiz yourself with some of TownHall's own questions (below), then read this essay by Alex Di Iori.

TownHall's Brand ID Quiz

  1. Since the time GMOs were introduced into the American diet, the occurrence of food allergies has increased. (True/False)
  2. Why are pesticide-producing GMO crops potentially dangerous? (A: If the pesticides produced by the plants are killing insects, they may be bad for human consumption; or B: Because the plant has been modified, the nutrition is not the same.)
  3. Since the introduction of GMOs, fewer pesticides and weedkillers are used? (True/False)
  4. GMOs have been linked to which disease? (A: Ebola; B: Epilepsy; C: Mad Cow Disease; D: Autism)
  5. GMO crops do not have greater yield. (True/False)
  6. Who paid for the testing of approved GMOs? (A: The companies that developed the GMOs; B: A non-biased, third party; C: The USDA; D: The FDA)
  7. In Europe, how much did food prices increase when GMO labeling became required? (A: 2%; B: .02%; C: .002%; D: .2%)
  8. Why do some experts believe the introduction of GMOs has led to an increase in food allergies? (A: They were introduced at the same time the frequency of food allergies exploded; B: There can be no other explanation; C: Since the GMO food contains foreign DNA, the body does not recognize it, and therefore, attacks it in the form of an allergic reaction; D: GMOs are being unfairly blamed for allergic reactions)
  9. Most GMO crops are modified to _________. (A: Be more nutritious; B: Produce their own pesticides or be resistant to weed killer; C: Grow larger; D: Grow faster)
  10. What year was GMO corn and soy introduced into the American diet? (A: 1994; B: 1996; C: 1995; D: 1997)
Post your answers in the comments. We'll post the cheat sheet once you've devoured all the Reese's peanut butter cups.

(Image courtesy of Emily Crawford)

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