It is now three years since the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that glyphosate, the key ingredient of the popular weedkiller Roundup, is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
In response, Monsanto (the manufacturers of Roundup) has set about trying to discredit the WHO’s findings by, for example, setting up and funding numerous research projects, each of which, unsurprisingly, has gone on to conclude that Roundup is safe.
Safe or not, glyphosate has been found in much of the food we consume – cereals, bread, snack foods, honey, wine and even water. This is hardly surprising since it is the world’s most widely used agricultural chemical, with 9.5 million tons applied globally each year.
But are we starting to see the beginning of the end for Roundup?
Last month saw a landmark ruling by a Californian court, which found that exposure to glyphosate was responsible for a school groundkeeper’s terminal cancer. He was awarded $289 million by the judge, who also described Mosanto as acting with “malice, oppression or fraud”. The case has understandably hit the headlines because of the size of the award, but it is actually just one of over five thousand such cases that are pending against Monsanto.
I was disappointed that within days of that court ruling the European Union decided to grant an extended licence for glyphosate use across member states until 2022. There were nine countries dissenting from that decision, including France, which has announced it will completely ban glyphosate within three years. France will join a growing number of countries worldwide, including Belgium, Denmark, Sri Lanka and Colombia that have banned the chemical.
Monsanto’s response to the WHO’s announcement, and indeed to the California court case has been to go on the offensive.
This is an historical pattern. Back in the 1960s an American scientist, Rachel Carson, published a book called The Silent Spring, charting the devastating environmental damage caused by an agricultural pesticide called Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known as DDT. In response Monsanto and other DDT manufacturers mounted a concerted attack upon Carson’s credibility, followed by a huge media campaign proclaiming the safety of DDT, and warning of dire consequences if it was no longer made available to farmers.
It took decades to establish the truth. Eventually DDT was declared to be a “probable carcinogen” by the USA Environmental Protection Agency. Even then it took several decades before it was finally banned for agricultural use.
So, in this latest dispute about glyphosate, who should we believe: Monsanto, with its track record of concealment, denial, misrepresentation and corporate protectionism telling us Roundup is perfectly safe, or the independent body of scientific experts, and now a US court, who have declared that glyphosate is harmful to human health?
On to the recipe, which I have created in association with Suma Wholefoods Cooperative. Under the terms of our arrangement, every couple of months I select products from the Suma Wholefoods range which Suma provide free of charge. It is a range which includes plenty of organic and ethically sourced products. Using the products I have chosen I then create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
The origin of this recipe stems from a dish I first made a couple of months ago using up ingredients from the fridge and cupboards. It’s a sort of Indian/Greek fusion dish. That may sound like a strange combination of cuisines, but if you look at the ingredients you will see there are several that are common to both cooking cultures.
Anyway, the main thing is it really does taste good. It’s already full of lovely plant protein and goodness, so vegans could omit the halloumi and still have a nourishing and great tasting dish.
I used ready-made organic hummus in this dish, but it’s very easy to make your own (and if you can get fresh chickpeas you might want to try making my green hummus recipe).
spicy roast cauliflower with hummus and pomegranate
1 organic cauliflower, broken into roughly 3 cm florets
1 225 g block organic halloumi cheese, cut into roughly 1 cm cubes (omit for vegan version)
2 onions, finely sliced
seeds from 1 pomegranate
2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
2 x 200g tubs organic hummus
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
6 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into a bowl. Add the turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, garam masala and sea salt. Whisk together until all the spices are incorporated into the oil.
2. Tip the cauliflower florets into a roasting dish. Pour the spiced oil over the top, then toss thoroughly to coat all the florets with the oil. Place in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and starting to catch. Remove from the oven and set to one side.
3. While the cauliflower is roasting, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet and place over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the cumin seeds. They will sizzle and brown very quickly. After thirty seconds, add the sliced onion and turn the heat down to medium. Cook, stirring for a further five minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Turn the heat down slightly and add the cubes of halloumi. Cook for a further five minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the halloumi does not burn. Remove from the heat, leaving everything in the pan and set to one side.
4. Divide the hummus between four plates. Scatter with the toasted pine nuts, the pomegranate seeds and a little of the chopped coriander. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
5. Tip the roast cauliflower into the frying pan containing the onion and halloumi mixture. Place back over the heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and remaining coriander. Divide between the four plates and serve.