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    Non-GMO Beer: For The Anti-Science Hippie Alcoholic In You
    By Hank Campbell | March 23rd 2014 05:57 PM | 26 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    Peak Organic Brewing Co. has announced that it has become the first brewer to receive Non-GMO Project verification for its beer.

    They believe this makes their product more 'pure' than beers which contain grains that have instead been randomly mutated and hybdrized over thousands of years.

    So what in evil beer of their competitors is genetically modified? The wheat, the hops, the barley? No, none of those things are genetically modified anyway. Maybe it is the yeast. Germany has a purity law (The Reinheitsgebot) which has not been updated since 1516 (1) - and every single product in every single beer they make would technically be incompatible in the modern interpretation because no product in any beer is the same as it was in 1516 - but yeast is the thing that anti-biology types worry has been genetically modified continuously since then. Yet yeast isn't even in beer, unless it is some intentional 'cloudy beer' effort, yeast is strained out before beer is pasteurized. To believe that changes the genetics of beer is like believing that your grandfather's diet made you fat or that third-hand smoke causes cancer.

    So they may be saying they are GMO-free the same way ice cream claims it can be Gluten-Free; it never was in the first place. Beer was exempt from California's Proposition 37 warning label effort, for example, because even the shrillest environmental activists didn't want to confuse what is and isn't genetically modified, and that was a law so vaguely written that any grain that was milled (all of it) could technically not be 'natural'.

    One interesting additional claim that may shed light on how little science is involved in this - they also say their product uses no chemicals. That's impossible, right?  I mean, even an egg has chemicals, you just don't have to list them on labels because they are natural:

    Making beer is a 100 percent chemical process, it is not found in nature.

    Obviously the audience they are selling to may not know what a chemical is, they may think all chemicals are bad because they have been educated by advertising and that beer comes from Beer Trees. Or they think feces is a good chemical and synthetic fertilizer that won't poison you with E. Coli is somehow bad. They are quite wrong on that last part. While tens of thousands have been sickened or died due to food processed in "organic" fashion in the last 15 years, the number of illnesses, deaths and even stomachaches attributed to GMO foods is still sitting at zero. If they want to believe there is a Beer Tree, I am fine with that.

    But I am also calling natural bovine fertilizer on their claims for more practical reasons. All of their ingredients have been grown on local "family farms" which are guaranteed to use no pesticides and are guaranteed GMO-free and guaranteed organic? Doubtful, but even if so the list of synthetic exemptions allowed under which organic food can remain "organic" will stupefy you. Almost nothing organic is really organic, if it is processed at all. Unless this beer costs $100 a bottle, skepticism is warranted. And the certification is suspect. There is evidence the Non-GMO Project is just cashing checks and certifying people without doing any fact-finding. They are, after all, the group which certified this rock salt as Non-GMO:


    This is technically accurate, since salt is not an organism. It's still blatantly deceptive. Credit and link: MNN and Shea Gunther's friend Jes, who took the picture.

    They also note that they are part of the "Just Label It" organization, which is devoted to using government to give their customers market share they can't gain through legitimate competition. This political action group cares so much about the public they want to force people to buy the products of their corporate donors - and will use advertising to make the public irrationally afraid for their health to accomplish it.

    Still, no matter what crazy social authoritarian agenda they may endorse, this Portland, Maine brewer is at least doing labeling the correct way - advertising their product as non-GMO rather than trying to put a warning label on competitors. If we allow homeopathic, nutritional supplement and all kinds of bizarre alternative medicine products to bilk people, we can only do so much for those willing to spend more money for a placebo. If you are also sensible about food awareness, here is an example of a terrific label, that does not involve trying to scare people:



    Is that acceptable to $29 billion organic food conglomerates? No, they want a warning label on every product but their own.

    I am sure there is a market for this beer but the rest of you can be assured that certified non-GMO beer won't taste any better or any worse than any other beer - because it uses the exact same ingredients, unless somewhere in their beer they used glucose syrup instead of yeast, which may have been made from corn which may have been genetically modified but which is not considered a GMO in anyplace but Germany, and only then because it replaces yeast under their beer law from 500 years ago.

    If you are worried that regular beer has actually somehow damaged you, maybe try chelation therapy, yoga, or going gluten-free to cure it. Because you have too much money anyway.

    Drink up. Here is hoping they have that non-GMO rock salt on the pretzels to go with it.

    NOTE:

    (1) It is the only reason what we know as beer today is beer. Beer by then had been bastardized out to products called beer but using "fruits, herbs, weeds such as anis, myrtle, oak leaves, ivy (poisonous), along with the poisonous seeds of herbstzeitlosen, raspberries, elderberry, caraway, lavender, dandelion, bay leaves, balm, mint, nutmeg, cherry leaves, plums, rose leaves, rosemary, wild rosemary, schluessel flowers, juniper berries, and lemon."

    Thanks, Wilhelm IV!

    Comments

    Ha! The ingredients label may not scare people. But I think the name Tofurkey on the front scares my relatives.

    That said--really, take a look at the Tofurkey slices the next time you are in the store. It has humane society labels, Kosher (KSA), Vegan, Family Owned, Low VOC inks, and 100% recycled paperboard. Not one of those is a mandated label and they work perfectly fine.

    But as a rule, the kinds of claims the beer company and a bunch of the other non-GMO products makes have me wondering about how much they understand food safety. They creep me out completely with such a poor understanding of chemistry and biology.

    Alcohol drinks is not good to our health.

    Or our grammar.

    To the Tune of Officer Krupke (Westside Story)

    ACTION:

    Dear Dr. Mercola,
    You gotta understand.
    Your potions are just cola
    Your quackery's out of hand!
    Your patients are all junkies,
    for Holistics, should be banned.
    Holy, Moses ! You're a scheister upon the land !

    ACTION AND JETS:

    Oh, Dr. Mercola, we're very upset!
    You gives us magic tonics in place of what we should get.
    We ain't no dummies, it's really understood.
    Deep down, you know they're no good !

    ACTION:

    They're no good ?

    ALL:

    They're no good, they're no good
    They are no damn good !
    They never do anywhere near what they should !
    They should put a halt, to your Himalayian Salt!
    Cause, deep down, you know it's no good !

    No Good !

    I always preferred the "Carbon based compound" definition of organic. That way I can go tell people their plastics are all organic. :)

    Great article. I enjoyed the read. My only comment is that nobody seriously believes that there are chemicals in our food that are unhealthful....this is actually one thing the government has done really well is regulating food safety. Also "Chemicals" do not equal food chemistry. All cooking involves chemistry. Consumers increasingly reject unneeded chemicals in the food production system. Organic certification embodies a sustainable food production methods that don't use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and GMO seeds. Organic certified foods and beverages support productions methods that therefor protect plant diversity, soil microorganisms, minimizing carbon footprint, minimize chemical runoff to our rivers and streams, and protect farm worker health. These are the food values that were commonplace before World War II, albeit with the addition of some fancy food chemistry additives that are mysteriously allowed (which I don't understand why they are, but they are). My fellow organic brewer Peak would do better to inform consumers that our beers Organic Certification = GMO Free by definition, so the added voluntary GMO label is duplicative, and in my mind, confusing (thus your well written article!!). The folks behind the Non GMO label have convinced grocery buyers that their logo is "stronger" than the Organic Logo for consumer preference. Peak is probably responding to this request. They may be right, but I think consumers main decision needs to be: "This beer (or food) is good and worth buying again! Plus, its organic!"

    Hank
    Yes, part of my puzzlement was finding out what was GMO in beer - that is why I linked to the rock salt, which by definition can't be a GMO since there is no G or O. I suppose it is possibly syrup.
    Organic certification embodies a sustainable food production methods that don't use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and GMO seeds. 
    Let's not make the same mistake they do. All fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are chemicals. Whether they can be found in nature or are synthetic is scientifically a minor issue but I would defy any organic grower to prove they use no chemicals. The yield would be about 25 percent, which is fine for a sustenance farmer, but not for food and beverage supply.

    'Organic' poison is not healthier than synthetic poison and not better for the environment. If properly used, both are just fine.
    Maize, in the form of brewers flakes or syrup, is a very common ingredient in beer. It replaces a portion of the malt to make beer cheaper. This practice is mainly limited to mass market lagers (Miller, Coors, etc.), but this style represent a huge share of the market. Since GMO maize makes up over 90% of all maize produced, I suspect a very high percentage of beer contains GMOs.

    Hank
    Okay, so it isn't just glucose syrup replacing yeast. That's good knowledge, thanks! Their premise is still invalid scientifically but at least we know why they are using it in marketing.
    Corn is added to many beers as a filler. So it being Non-GMO, is actually a good certification. Unless its from germany because they are not aloud to use additives outside of the four main ingredients.

    Hank
    I did mention corn syrup as the likely reason, though I hope that is not the case - if so, they are doing something even the crazy Prop 37 people did not do and have said science does not exist.

    If we are worried about selling an intellectual placebo, like homeopathy, okay, but saying a genetically modified adjunct has changed the genetic nature of beer is bordering on crazy. A starch made from corn is not different than a starch from barley malt.

    Europe is goofy about science but they don't ban GMOs in cow feed - especially not under the pretense that it will change the genetic structure of milk.
    Hank
    If you start quoting Vani Hari on a science site, you are going to get ridiculed. She insists her diet fads made her pretty. Don't be gullible.

    She insists you should not eat anything she cannot pronounce but I bet she cannot pronounce (2R,3S,4S,5R,6R)-2-(hydroxymethyl)-6-[(2R,3S,4R,5R,6S)-4,5,6-trihydroxy-2-(hydroxymethyl)oxan-3-yl]oxy-oxane-3,4,5-triol. I will let you figure out what that is.
    GMO crops require less land, pesticides and water to produce similar yields to organic. Shouldn't there be a formula for determining the added resources and negative impacts to the planet required by "organic" foods compared to GMO foods?

    Gosh, if GMO products are all so golly gee whiz bang great why aren't the companies that sell them fighting FOR labeling them as containing such? Even the author of this article presumes that giving the public access to the perfect information the free market is always alleging to provide is a 'WARNING' label, rather than a 'Hey, look at the great stuff this product is made of' label;
    I wonder why.
    Perhaps the author should try speaking with someone who has actually been, for decades, a bonafide scientist in the GMO field (eg. Dr. Thierry Vrain) rather than pin all his conclusions on 90 day industry funded studies.

    S

    Hank
    Why would Monsanto or anyone else lobby to force food farmers, growers, distributors and grocers to put labels on anything? I assume you think you are making some clever point, but if you knew as much about science as you claim, you would know that "industry-funded" is not an insult outside crackpot anti-science fringes. Industry-funded is instead required by law. 

    Imagine the fiasco if any company could create any goofy thing and then hand it to the government to test. The backlog would be 60 years. Instead, companies have to take the financial risk and provide complete studies. GMOs are the most thoroughly studied products in recent history.

    Go back to whatever anti-food site you came from; your default gibberish about 90 days and Thierry Vrain says you are not interested in evidence or reason, you are just promoted your religious belief in Gaea.

    I simply pointed out that if the products truly are as great as you're telling us they are it should be a plus rather than a minus to have them on the label, and that in any case the consumer has a right to know what is in their food.

    "Why would Monsanto or anyone else lobby to force food farmers, growers, distributors and grocers to put labels on anything" --- More importantly, why do they spend millions to FORCE them not to?

    Hunh, so in your expert opinion Dr. Vrain, with 30 years experience in the field, is less an expert on the subject than, say, a random article poster on the internewebs with 'science' in the dotcom? In that case, all you need is a lab coat on your gravatar to cement your credibility; perhaps holding a graduated cylinder or a beaker with some purple liquid in it. That failing, some internationally peer reviewed studies might be worth a cite, no?

    Speaking of which:

    RE: "GMOs are the most thoroughly studied products in recent history."

    Which is EXACTLY why 60 plus nations either require labeling, or ban products containing them outright; IE they err on the side of caution when it comes to exposing everyone from conception to senility to unproven technologies. How disingenuous of you to imply that the majority of studies indicate all GMO's are perfectly safe when a growing body of evidence suggests precisely the opposite. As a purported 'scientist' does it really seem prudent to you to hang something as crucial as food safety SOLELY on 90 day trials designed for and by those with a vested interest in a favourable result?

    Look, if you want to volunteer yourself to be a guinea pig that's your prerogative, and I wish you all the best of luck. But quit telling people that industry always knows best, we've heard it before.

    Hank
    Your logic is all wrong. Look, I get it, maybe you bounce around to science sites and promote the latest and greatest fear and doubt in order to undermine unethical/scary/stupid scientists who are somehow corrupted by money...unless they are funded by politicians. If so, you are one of about five people who think politics is less corrupt than the private sector.

    What is missing from your comment, again, is any science. You can disparage this site and embrace one known crackpot rather than tens of thousands of biologists, I am cool with that - and you can even invoke money conspiracy theories, but at least know what you are talking about rather than having some canned nonsense you copied and pasted from some fringe site. Here in California, long before any company spent money against Prop 37 and its warning labels, 100% of the funding was from trial lawyers, homeopaths and the $29 billion organic industry. 

    Yet somehow their funding is not an issue for you. I wonder why that is?
    "What is missing from your comment, again, is any science"

    Not sure how you missed it:

    Dr.Thierry Vrain. 30 years experience practicing science; in the field in question. Scientist. Or the 'tens of thousands' of scientists working in the 60 plus nations mentioned that ban/otherwise restrict GMO's? All 'crackpots' in your estimation, I suppose (at least if they don't work for a GMO producer, apparently)

    I'm still waiting for a single example of the 'science' you claim proves the absolute safety of all GMO's. It should be simple enough to pick ONE out of the "tens of thousands of biologists" who, like you apparently, have authored studies so incredibly credible they can deem with a straight face Dr. Vrain and the thousands of scientists worldwide that agree with him 'crackpots'. Any specific reason for the ad hom, other than the fact that Dr.Vrain arrives at a conclusion that differs from yours? Are you actually familiar with his work?

    "Here in California, long before any company spent money against Prop 37 and its warning labels, 100% of the funding was from trial lawyers, homeopaths and the $29 billion organic industry...Yet somehow their funding is not an issue for you. I wonder why that is?"

    Wow, that's a big number; did they use the whole 29 billion? How much did they spend on the matter compared to the GMO companies?

    But seriously it's only an issue for me if while promoting their own interests they were seeking to hide facts, rather than exposing them.

    I maintain that we have a right to know what is in our food, and make our own decisions based on that knowledge.

    PS Ostensibly, gov't scientists are obligated to serve the people who elected those who appointed them (public servants), as opposed to private companies, who answer only to the bottom line. The argument is strongest when they reach consensus.

    Hank
    Just so you are aware, you have now committed two of the five intellectual crimes that stop people from bothering to reply to your comments.

    I would rather light a candle than curse your darkness so I will note again:

    (1) Picking one scientist whose claims of an industry conspiracy you happen to like while simultaneously invalidating 10,000 other biologists is not rational.

    (2) Nothing is safe. Not water, not air, nothing. So you are creating a fake metric that no product can meet and claiming GMOs have to meet it. There is not a single stomachache that can be attributed to GMOs, not one, whereas organic food, as has been noted, has poisoned and killed tens of thousands of people during the same period. GMOs have substantial equivalence to any other food, therefore they are as safe as any food.

    (3) It is bizarre you would think ethics are dictated by the people who pay a salary. Every actual scientist on planet Earth is offended by your characterization that they become unethical if they leave government and go to work for Dupont.

    Perhaps you are unethical and corrupt. It is common for people to assume everyone is 'like' them, that is why thieves hold on to their wallets so tightly. But I assure you - since you don't seem to know any actual scientists - they are not stupid or evil or unethical based on who pays them, despite what you continue to claim.
    RE: Picking one scientist whose claims of an industry conspiracy you happen to like while simultaneously invalidating 10,000 other biologists is not rational.

    No, irrationality is defined by your refusing absolutely to acknowledge the scientists from the 60 plus nations I've mentioned. And, obviously this isn't getting through: Dr. Vrain is an INSIDER with 30 years experience in the field. Not quite sure how that could possibly disqualify his opinion in your estimation (except that you don't like what he is saying)

    Still waiting for you to name ONE of your favoured 10000000000 biologists that you allege promote your POV.

    Re : Nothing is safe....
    Wow, not much of revelation that one, is it? But that isn't what I am arguing. I am arguing that I have the right to CHOOSE, rightly or wrongly, how to mitigate my own risks. Again: just looking for a little of that perfect knowledge the free market is always promising.

    'Substantial equivalence' lol. Except for the proteins exuded hey? Sure about that one are you? Let me guess who's word you're willing to take for it...

    Re:It is bizarre you would think ethics are dictated by the people who pay a salary...

    No it isn't. It's a valid concern, all your heartfelt assurances aside. Because,

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair.

    Ibsen has an excellent (short) play on the subject as well: "An Enemy of the People"

    AntiScience Hippie Alcoholics? REALLY?

    People who like to drink GOOD beer in MODERATION will love it-you know those SUCCESSFUL FOLKS that go to MICROBREWERIES to get the best?

    Likening people like all of THEM AND ME [64 Years old with VERY REFINED TASTES] as drunken hippies is not ONLY NOT TRUE, it's ignorant, ugly and slanderous-not "Science" at all, but a totally CHEAP SHOT that will earn you NO RESPECT or CREDIBILITY-with anyone other than your acolytes.

    I often disagree with the tenets of the Truth About Trade site , but I was thought it was above posting rantings of a slithering golem like this.

    Rude and Disappointing.

    Hank
    I am not sure of the issue. You say you are not an anti-science hippie so why do you care if I talk about anti-science hippies? I simply said this is a marketing gimmick - which it is - and I get the P.T. Barnum 'there is a sucker born every minute' sympathies and I am not saying it should be banned. But non-GMO beer is for suckers who have also been duped. I have also ridiculed expensive, non-alcoholic whisky, maybe that angers you also.
    As you note, the beer is the important thing. You then say the label counts more than the quality. It can't be both at the same time.
    There is no excusing the excess of your rhetoric. The title says it all. As an Academic, you should be above such vilifications. Instead of apologizing and rewriting the article in such a way, as to make the points you're citing as your lame excuse, you'll keep repeating talking points like they will somehow soften the cheap shot your entire premise and article makes.

    If you don't care for it-or think only dupes will drink it-hey, it's America, you can be as snooty and cheesy as you want to be. The rest of us are probably not so much better...we just post our articles by insulting the folks we disagree with-or, at least, MOST of us-journalism being in the state it is these days.

    Drink all the St Louis brews you want...lots of folks do, but when we sit across a table, and they drink Bud Light, and I drink Killian's Red or Spaden over hot wings, WE just smile and enjoy.

    Amazingly, they don't feel the need to tell me I'm a dupe, a fool, or an "Anti-Science [WTF does THAT even HAVE to do with Beer drinking?] Hippie[not at 64-Bubba...and I'm from Tennessee-lot's of long-haired NON-Hippies there that might enjoy helping you grasp the difference-check it out!] "ALCOHOLIC!?" That's offensive on a whole bunch of levels, as there are people in treatment and AA fighting for their lives over that-do you also call the folks with "Down Syndrome" dummies?

    I won't bother you further. I've introduced you to the Social Networks. But, you won't care, and I see you'll keep justifying yourself rather than admit you were being rude and offensive. I already know where to not "cast my pearls."

    Hank

    As an Academic, you should be above such vilifications. 
    Why? When did this myth of the stoic, cold science advocate arise? "Star Trek" in the 1960s, I suppose. Another relic of the hippie era. In reality, not calling out people who engage in nonsense has given us Jenny McCarthy, a multi-billion dollar alternative medicine scam, and moral relativism about data, where people think truth is subjective and they can take it or leave it. Science is wrong unless it agrees with their cultural world view.

    I can't, for example, fathom why your Tennessee origins should matter. Are you making some weird implied threat? Are you that dumb? I suppose you are, if you think there is such a thing as a legitimate non-GMO beer. And yeah, I will keep on telling you that. If it hurts your feelings, stop defending rubbish and stand up to it with the same vitriol you use against people who tell the truth so consumers won't be bilked by dopey marketing.
    Hank
    “We love great beer, so we decided to make ours with ingredients grown on family farms that don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We found those organic ingredients to be of higher quality and integrity,” founder Jon Cadoux wrote.

    Which is lovely, since I am a guy who, given my way, would feed nothing to his family that was not personally grown, killed, cleaned, processed and cooked by any hand but mine, but it has nothing to do with science. The ingredients may be higher quality but that is probably not due to an organic process but rather to an expert brewmaster picking them. 

    Yes, I have more faith in Cadoux than he has in himself. 

    Otherwise, we could take any organic ingredients and using his exact same beer process have the product be superior to any conventional ingredient product. We know that is not true.