A few weeks ago a friend told me a story about having a craving for a Cheez Whiz sandwich. He went to the fridge found the jar, made and ate the sandwich. Later he asked his wife how long she thought the jar had been sitting in the fridge. He checked the label and it said; Best before May 2009. It was 4 1/2 years old, – still looked perfect and tasted delicious. How does a jar of cheese stay fresh for 4 1/2 years? I buy a block of cheddar and in a week it is so moldy I have to throw it out. After only a few seconds online I discovered a story in a National Post article about Dean Southworth. He worked for Kraft and had developed Cheez Whiz for them in the 1950’s. Now retired and living in Florida he bought himself a jar and made a sandwich. Unlike my friend he however almost gagged and said the stuff tasted like axle grease. I guess my friend has a poorly developed palate when it comes to fine cheeses. He contacted Kraft and demanded to know what they had done to his cheese. Long story short, they had taken a key ingredient out of Cheez Whiz… it no longer contains…wait for it… it no longer contains cheese. Another friend that works for Safeway told me they don’t even refrigerate the stuff at the store and it will sometimes sit in the warehouse for 6 months before it even goes on the shelf. Question: If you take the cheese out of Cheez Whiz, what do you have left? … just whiz!
The bible mentions food, diet, farming and farming practices hundreds of times in scripture. Why? Because God created the human body and he knows exactly how best to feed it. Unfortunately most Christians have discarded the dietary teachings of the Old Testament claiming that they were abolished in the New Testament. I would not disagree that we not bound by Jewish dietary law, but for the life of me I do not see how Jesus dying on the cross makes pork or shellfish somehow healthy. He also abolished the 10 Commandments, but last time I checked He still frowns on murder and adultery.
I am one of the few preachers today that preachers on diet, exercise, farming practices, the food supply etc. I actually see them as moral issues. When was the last time you heard some preach about the sin of gluttony? We go on and on about drugs, drinking, smoking, sexuality etc. but no one will touch gluttony with a 10 foot pole… I can think of a great joke here, but it would come across as just plain mean. Frankly, I am less concerned about the sin than I am about the consequences. Heart disease, diabetes, bad backs and joints are just a few of the eventualities of obesity. We often pray for people for healing for things that I know could be resolved by diet and exercise. Gluttony was considered one of the 7 deadly sins in the middle ages and is no less deadly today.
But this is only half the picture. I have become increasingly alarmed by what is happening to our food supply. Even if you try to eat healthy, most of the time you don’t even know what you are eating. Many things on the shelves no longer resemble food. Who would have thought that Cheez Whiz wasn’t actually made out of cheese? The grocery store shelves are literally stacked from one end to the other with processed type foods. Any nutritional value is long gone and they are loaded instead with salts, sugars and scary sounding preservatives like acesulfame-K, butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydrozyttoluene, potassium bromate, sodium sulfite, sodium dioxide and the list goes on and on. None of these ingredients are foods and most are either poisonous or carcinogenic. They are in almost every packaged food on the shelf. Then there are the hydrogenated vegetable oils which again are in almost everything which, like Cheez Whiz, are basically vegetable based plastics. This is one of the reasons why they do not spoil in the cupboard. I also have a 4 1/2 year old jar of axle grease in the garage that has not gone bad either, but I would never spread it on a piece of bread (or bread-like slice).
In a recent sermon on our Christian responsibility to care of our environment WATCH HERE I took a swipe at the biotech industry and their GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops. Specifically I referred to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready canola. It is a transgenically engineered crop that has had a gene from a bacteria inserted into it so as to make it resistant to the non-selective herbicide Round Up (also made by Monsanto). My point was that man has crossed over a line into the realm of playing God. Bio-tech companies are creating new forms of life that do not exist in nature.
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth” (Gen 1:11 ). God’s system of re-creation to continually replenish the earth revolves around the ingenious law of sowing and reaping. God created all the species necessary for man to live on the earth and every one of them reproduces after its kind… until recently when man decided he could improve on God’s design. Man just does not have a very good track record when it comes to messing with nature. We have been destroying the rain forest, the ozone layer, possibly the polar ice caps (depending on what you think about global warming), polluting the rivers and streams. It is hard to see how when it comes to nature we are making real improvement. God said that on the Day of Judgment He “should destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18) I do not think we should be taking this warning lightly. We really have no idea how GMOs will alter the food supply. The majority of canola (where we get our cooking oil and margarine) in Canada is GM. We also do not know what eating transgentics will do to our health or if it will affect our own DNA.
After the sermon aired I got a slew of mail from farmers and agricultural people telling me that I had no business using the pulpit to talk about such matters. They told me to stick to the gospel and theology and leave agriculture to the professionals and farmers who feed the world. They were mostly polite, but clearly dismissive that I was ignorant and uninformed on the subject. Most people do not realize that I am an Agriculture grad from the University of Manitoba. I was also a personal acquaintance of the late Baldur Stefansson who developed the low erucic acid rapeseed that became canola. I spent many years in the industry as both a producer and grain buyer. Even though I am no longer involved in the agricultural industry I have followed the progression of the Ag and Bio-tech industries and have both written and spoken about it for years. I left the Ag industry years ago because I felt producers were going to become slaves to growing powerful Agri-biz machine. I feel my fears are being realized today. I do not own their stocks out of principle, and as a health conscious (to a bit of an extreme) individual I just want to know what is in my food before I eat it. As mentioned earlier I believe what many of us eat is actually killing us. In our home we TRY to eat organic, fresh and natural. It is very difficult in that things are omitted on the labels. The fact that these bio-genetic giants refuse to be forthcoming is my bone of contention. Monsanto says right on their website that they oppose the labeling of GMO foods. They are also on record of spending multiple millions of dollars to oppose it. If they are proud of their accomplishments then why do they go to so much trouble to hide them?
If the science of all this is not of interest to you skip this paragraph.
GMO proponents argue that once canola is processed into the oil it no longer retains the GM traits of the modified canola. This is not true and and I got accused of misleading my listeners when I said that our margarine was GM. If anyone is guilty of misleading the public, it is them not me. I have read several peer reviewed studies on the subject. The myth of DNA-free GM oil continues to persist even though the ability to detect the DNA in the oil has been around since 2010. I am aware that there many researchers that would not support that claim, but there are others that have proven exactly the opposite. One example of several is “Determination of DNA Traces in Rapeseed Oil” by Hellebrand, Nagy and Mörsel. They concluded that “DNA fragments were successfully identified in samples of cold press oil, as well as in the samples of the refined oil.” Even if the foreign DNA was not detectable within the canola oil it does not change the fact that it was still produced by a trans-genetically modified organism. In my sermon I was careful not to use scare tactics such as citing the (largely dismissed) Seralini study where rats feed GM corn died cancerous deaths. Nevertheless, the fact that such possibilities could exist should at least give us pause. That GM foods are not required to be labeled also tells me that the biotech lobby has way too much influence. I would love to think that the motivation behind this is the altruistic desire to feed the world, but in reality I know it is the billions of dollars the biotech industry makes by manipulating nature. This kind of money can buy any research it wants… and any government for that matter. One of the other mis-truths of the biotech industry has been that inserting new genetic material into a plant is really no different than this process of plant selection which plant breeders have been doing almost since the beginning of agriculture. Not so. Transgenics cannot happen in nature. Some are now saying mutated plant genes are equivalent to transgenics, but again, the gene is still from that plant, not from another species! I am concerned in my heart that genetic engineering (including cloning) will end up being a catastrophic mistake.
To me what is going on with the food supply is a spiritual and moral issue that I believe is well within my scope to talk about. I guess my biggest concern about my sermon that day was for the farmers who have little choice but to move forward with the latest technological advancements. I could see how my words could have been offensive to them. They are just doing their job and trying to feed the world and GM crops are both increasing the food supply and their ability to make money. But I feel even worse that they are being held hostage to a growing multi-national bio-tech industry that MAY not have honorable intentions. Gee whiz… we live in such strange days.