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Swiss author ladles up genetically modified recipes

Swiss consumers are notoriously against genetically modified foods and tend to prefer organic alternatives Keystone Archive

A Swiss scientist hopes to allay fears of genetically modified foods in a new cookbook called "Genes on the Fork", which contains recipes and information about the foods.

This content was published on August 14, 2001 - 07:41

Author Beda Stadler, deputy head of the immunology Department at Bern's university hospital, and an energetic champion of genetically modified, (GM) foods, tells swissinfo that some 3,500 copies of his book are now available online.

The modified foods are "safer, tastier and more ecological" than their organic counterparts, he says, and his book aims to raise awareness of those benefits.

"Genetically modified foods give us better products," he says. "Besides, nature does it by itself, it's just that it doesn't happen as quickly as scientific intervention."

However, would-be GM cooks may find it hard to purchase the ingredients for his recipes. Switzerland's two main grocery retailers, Migros and Coop, have refused to sell such foods.

One of Stadler's favourite dishes is "Golden Risotto with Octopus," which involves cooking squid for three hours in its own ink and then serving it on a ring of orange Arborio GM rice.

"This recipe will never be made In Europe, as we don't have golden rice, we don't need it" Stadler confesses. "Golden rice contains more vitamin A, that's what makes it orange. In Europe we don't need extra vitamin A as we have carrots and melons etc but in the third world so many people go blind each year because of a Vitamin A deficiency. They need this rice."

Stadler believes that today, almost all food is genetically modified in some way. Italian Pasta, for example, is yellow because scientists altered the wheat genome with radioactivity.

Darwin's biological theories

A scientific book for the layman "Genes on the Fork" is based on Charles Darwin's biological theories and is interspersed with recipes using genetically modified ingredients.

"I thought I should write a cookbook so that people could learn something about Darwin," Stadler told swissinfo. "Darwin promoted biological science which enabled genetic modification."

However, Jacqueline Bachmann, head of the Swiss Consumer Association does not think that the cookbook will catch on in Switzerland as Swiss consumers are notoriously against genetically modified foods.

"Swiss people do not want GM foods," she told swissinfo. " We don't have any long term studies about the risks for humans, health and nature. I also believe that gene technology supports agriculture which destroy our environment."

But for Stadler, the key question is about choice and not just about whether people will buy his book and cook the GM recipes.

"I'm for freedom of choice," he says, "There should always be organic foods but it's not fair to push out GM foods before people have a chance to eat them. In this respect we should give gene technology a chance."

"Genes on the Fork" is published by Internutrition, a pro-GM food lobbying group.

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