Leading chefs Neil Perry and Martin Boetz have launched a major public attack against the development of genetically modified food in Australia.
In a column that appeared today on The National Times website, Perry and Boetz urge the Australian government to “put a stop” to GM wheat trials.
“We are disturbed by the prospect that Australia could become one of the first countries to grow and eat genetically modified wheat,” they say in the column.
“Wheat is a fundamental part of our daily diet, the basis of bread, pasta, noodles, pastries and many other foods.”
“Whether or not you agree with its methods, Greenpeace’s destruction of the GM wheat from a CSIRO trial site just outside Canberra last week has stirred up the debate. And the state of our food – and the ways it is produced its a debated worth having.”
“The CSIRO claims its experimental GM wheat could help reduce bowel cancer rates because of more “resistant starch which is good for digestive health. Encouraging more people to eat more brown bread, rice and oats would seem eminently safer and more sensible and affordable.
“Even more troubling is the fact that GM plants have never been proven safe to eat.”
Genetically modified wheat has no place on the menu
We are proud to be two of Australia’s leading chefs and food industry spokesmen. Making and serving fresh and tasty food is a great pleasure for us. We have built our lives and careers around this passion.
But we are disturbed by the prospect that Australia may become one of the first countries in the world to grow and eat genetically modified wheat. Wheat is a fundamental part of our daily diet, the basis of bread, pasta, noodles, pastries and many other foods.
Whether or not you agree with its methods, Greenpeace’s destruction of GM wheat from a CSIRO trial site just outside Canberra last week has stirred up the debate. And the state of our food – and the ways it is produced – is a debate worth having.
The integrity of our food is continually being depleted by the demands of a fast-paced modern lifestyle. Our relationship with food is generally an unhealthy one. Agri-food manufacturers play on people’s time poverty to sell ultra-processed fast foods full of salt, sugar, highly refined carbohydrates, additives and preservatives. These foods have nothing in common with the fresh fruit and vegetables and whole cereals that should make up the bulk of a healthy diet.
The CSIRO claims its experimental GM wheat could help reduce bowel cancer rates because of more ”resistant starch”, which is good for digestive health. Encouraging people to eat more brown bread, rice and oats would seem eminently safer and more sensible and affordable. And this can be done without turning to GM crops, which we consider to be unsafe. But of course that’s not attractive to big international biotech firms that see a commercial advantage in GM crops.
The CSIRO and the Australian government are contradicting their own health advice that people should eat more wholegrains and a more varied diet. If people carry on eating the same kind of processed foods, drained of all the nutrients and life-giving energy we need, we can expect health problems to continue. GM wheat won’t help this; the likelihood is it will only increase the amount of unnatural, processed food on supermarket shelves.
Even more troubling is the fact that GM plants have never been proven safe to eat. Through trial and error over many thousands of years, we have found what we can eat for health and nourishment and what we must stay away from.
New forms of food such as GM wheat have never been tested for safety. They have not undergone the kind of trial and error that all our naturally occurring foods have over thousands of years of being consumed – they are a whole new form of genetically modified life. And they have not been through the kind of safety testing demanded of new pharmaceutical products.
Food is a fundamental part of life. Protecting the integrity of our food and the reliability of our food supply is critical. We must ask what kind of world we are building for ourselves and for our children where we would prefer to spend billions of dollars creating unnecessary and risky genetically modified products, rather than following our grandmothers and mothers’ advice of simply eating a balanced diet.
In a few generations our food and farming systems have been radically transformed. Once based around nature and human need, they are now controlled by corporations, from seed to supermarket, for the purpose of profit.
The menus in our restaurants, like those of other restaurants, cafes and family kitchens all around the country, feature wheat products such as bread and pastry every day. GM wheat will jeopardise our capacity to serve wholesome food we can rely on.
As leading chefs in Australia, we will stop using wheat products if GM becomes prevalent, or we will exclusively use certified organic wheat.
Australia’s reputation as one of the best food producers and places to eat in the world is at risk. We are urging the Australian government to stop risking Australia’s food industry and to put a stop to GM wheat trials.
Neil Perry is the owner of Spice Temple and The Waiting Room in Melbourne, and Rockpool Bar and Grill in Sydney and Perth. Martin Boetz is the owner and executive chef at Longrain restaurants in Melbourne and Perth. Both are signatories to Greenpeace’s Chef’s Charter, which aims to protect the quality and diversity of Australia’s food.