Perdue tries Impossible Burger amidst GMO, regenerative disputes
The Hagstrom Report
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue tried a nonmeat Impossible Burger at the company’s headquarters in California Thursday in the midst of Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown’s endorsement of genetically modified soybeans as an ingredient and his criticism of regenerative agriculture.
Perdue said the burger tasted “very good,” and that it was a “good facsimile” of real beef, Bloomberg reported.
During the visit to the Impossible Foods headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., Perdue acknowledged there is “some anxiety out there” in the beef industry, but said, “The main answer is the labeling question – consumers ought to know what it is and where it came from.”
Perdue is viewed as a friend of conventional agriculture, but he even tweeted about his visit to Impossible Foods as part of a series of tweets on his visit to California.
“At USDA we’re in the food business, from consumer to producer,” Perdue tweeted. “We visited @ImpossibleFoods today to learn more about the opportunities, advancements and technologies of the food innovation space.”
Impossible CEO Pat Brown recently vigorously defended the use of genetically modified soybeans in the non-meat burgers.
“We sought the safest and most environmentally responsible option that would allow us to scale our production and provide the Impossible Burger to consumers at a reasonable cost. And the unambiguous winner was American-grown, milled and processed GM soy that meets the highest global standards for health, safety and sustainability,” Brown wrote in a post on Medium.
Asked about Brown’s enthusiasm for GM soy, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization told The Hagstrom Report, “The decision by Impossible Burger to source GM soybeans points to the values we all share around producing safe, nutritious food in a more environmentally friendly manner. More than 90 percent of our nation’s soybeans are improved through biotechnology leading to reduction in the use of pesticides and tillage, protecting our water, air and soil. We appreciate Impossible Burger’s recognition of U.S. farmers’ commitment to sustainability.”
But the meat industry remains a major customer for soybean-based animal feed, and neither the American Soybean Association nor the United Soybean Board was willing to comment on Brown’s statement.
Brown’s enthusiasm for genetically modified soybeans may be related to his attempt to eliminate meat from the human diet. He recently told The Guardian that hamburgers contain fecal material.
“You can’t make ground beef without faecal bacteria getting into it. It’s part of the process,” Brown said.
Meanwhile, Brown has gotten into a dispute with Allan Savory of the Savory Institute over Savory’s belief that cattle grazing regenerates ecosystems in pastures. In its 2019 impact statement, Impossible Foods went so far as to say that regenerative agriculture that supplies grass-fed beef would not meet the demand for meat and dairy products and that industrial feedlots may use fewer resources than regenerative grazing.
“This is not the first, nor will it be the last, attempt to discredit Holistic Management as a sleight-of-hand for promoting and profiting off of large scale industrial agriculture,” Savory wrote. “The lifecycle analyses clearly show Holistic Management to be more ecologically responsible than their GMO soy-based product.”
But Savory noted that both he and Brown are critics of conventional, industrial agriculture and suggested that “we see this as an opportunity to start a dialogue between two seemingly separate points of view that share a common thread.”