US President Donald Trump often uses the phrase “fake news” to undermine truthful reporting that threatens to expose his own lies. It may be brazen and shocking to many of us, but it is not a new deceit.
The food and agriculture industries have been using similar, if more sophisticated, tactics for decades to undermine critics.
A wide range of underhand methods are deployed, not only to disguise indefensible practices but also to attack those who act as advocates for sustainable agriculture and organic food.
A 2015 Friends of the Earth report, “Spinning Food”, exposed some of the unscrupulous strategies used. It is a shocking read.
The subterfuges used include setting up numerous front organisations. Purporting to be independent but in reality funded by the food multinationals, their remit is to try to shape public opinion and to undermine opposition. This is done, for example, by flooding social media with fake research to drown out the impact of genuinely independent research.
Another tactic has been to try to win over women by co-opting female bloggers willing to write favourable articles and to disparage so-called “organic moms” as elitist bullies.
Seemingly independent social media engagement platforms have been set up, such as GMO Answers (“Skeptical about GMOs? We understand. We are here to answer your questions”), which are in fact run by industry PR firms.
Attacking the credibility of scientists, and others who raise concerns about industrial food production’s methods and impacts is common. The stories of Rachel Carson and John Yudkin, two scientists who told the truth but were then subject to pitiless campaigns of vilification, show how ruthless these industries can be.
Another common device is to disguise industry propaganda as real news by creating advertisements in sympathetic media that are formatted to look like editorial content.
Why should they go to such trouble?
Behind all the diversionary tactics the simple truth is that we cannot trust agribusiness and the processed food giants to do anything other than protect their profits, whatever lengths they need to go to, and whatever the cost to our individual and collective health.
Thai green curry has such a distinct and heady aroma. Unlike Indian curries, Thai curry is cooked quickly, the paste being stir-fried to release its aromas before the addition of coconut milk and the other ingredients.
This vegan version used extra firm tofu, which has a more resilient texture. It certainly plays its part in making this vegan version of Thai green curry delicious and satisfying.
Thai green curry
280 g extra firm tofu, cut into roughly 2 cm cubes
100 g green beans, trimmed
150 g shiitake mushrooms, sliced
250 g courgette, sliced
400 ml organic coconut milk
6 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp groundnut oil
for the curry paste
4 green chillies, roughly chopped (remove seeds if you prefer less heat)
1 banana shallot, roughly chopped
2 cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, finely chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly milled black pepper
15 g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
10 g fresh Thai basil, roughly chopped (use ordinary basil if not available)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp coconut sugar (use brown sugar if unavailable)
cooked jasmin rice
1. First make the curry paste. The traditional method is to pound the ingredients together with a pestle and mortar, which I find curiously satisfying, but the quicker technique is to put all of the curry paste ingredients into a food processor and blend together. Whichever method you choose, set the paste to one side when complete.
2. Place a wok over a high heat. Add the oil and reduce the heat to medium. Add the green curry paste and stir vigorously for a minute, then add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Add the courgettes, mushrooms, green beans and lime leaves. Cook, stirring regularly, for five minutes. Next add the tofu and cook, stirring, for a further two minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and serve the curry immediately, accompanied by jasmine rice and lime wedges.