Recently published research in the USA by the University of Virginia has confirmed that the increased use of genetically modified crops (GMOs) by farmers has led to a significant increase in the use of herbicides.
Covering a thirteen year period up to 2011, this is the largest study ever undertaken into the impact of GMOs on US farming and the environment. The researchers found that on average farmers growing genetically modified (GM) maize and soya beans used a staggering 28% more herbicide than farmers growing non GM varieties of the same crop.
Many of those GM crops are from the notorious “Roundup Ready” range produced by US chemical giant Monsanto (a company soon to be swallowed up by its German multinational rival, Bayer, an acquisition which will form a massively powerful agrichemical and seed conglomerate).
As the name might suggest, “Roundup Ready” GM seeds have been spliced microscopically with a gene from a bacterium resistant to the weed killer Roundup, resulting in a plant that will not die if it is inadvertently sprayed with that particular weed killer.
In practice, what this has meant is that farmers who sow “Roundup Ready” GM seeds have thrown caution, as well as herbicide, to the wind. They can drench their fields in Roundup knowing that they won’t inadvertently kill their valuable GM crops by doing so.
In some parts of the USA the increase in overall Roundup usage by GMO farmers has been credited with the emergence of so-called “superweeds”, resistant to Roundup and other herbicides. Indeed, the University of Virginia report concludes that “…the estimated pattern of change in herbicide use over time is consistent with the emergence of glyphosate weed resistance…” (glysophate is the key component of Roundup.)
Last year Roundup was declared to be “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organisation. It cannot be removed from food by washing or peeling. Astonishingly, it once carried a declaration on its label stating that it was “biodegradable” and that it “left the soil clean” until a French court ordered Monsanto to remove these claims.
Despite all of this, to this day Roundup is still being used widely by GM and other chemical-dependent farmers: another good reason for always choosing organic, wherever possible.
On to the recipe.
Believed to be the result of an accidental cross between a Seville orange and a mandarin orange, the clementine is in season right now. Here I’ve put its unique flavour to work in a light, refreshing and relatively simple dessert.
spiced clementines with clementine sorbet
3 clementines, peeled and segmented (reserve the zest for the sorbet)
150 ml clementine juice (from around 4 clementines, depending on size)
8 green cardamoms
1 star anise
8 whole black peppercorns
90 ml maple syrup
a few chopped fresh mint leaves, for garnish
for the sorbet
400 ml clementine juice (from around 9 clementines, depending on size)
zest of 3 clementines
juice of half a lemon
90 ml organic maple syrup
1. For the sorbet, whisk together the 400 ml clementine juice, clementine zest, lemon juice and maple syrup. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn. Once it is starting to set, tip the sorbet into a freezer proof container. Cover the container with a lid and freeze for at least 4 hours.
2. Remove the sorbet from the freezer and leave to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
3. Place the clementine segments in a bowl. Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar or with the flat blade of a knife and place in a saucepan with the star anise, black peppercorns, the 150 ml of clementine juice and the maple syrup. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, then lower the heat slightly and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the syrup from the heat and strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth. Immediately pour over the clementine segments and stir gently to combine. Leave to cool to room temperature.
4. To serve, place a spoonful of the spiced caramelised clementines on each plate. Add a scoop of the sorbet and drizzle over any remaining syrup. Sprinkle with the chopped mint leaves.