OMG! It’s a GMO!!

My mother has recently started seeing a nutritionist. In all honesty, I don’t believe she really needs to. Her diet is pretty well balanced for the most part. If anything, her money would probably be better spent on a personal trainer. She doesn’t move all that much!

Anyway, I was reading the papers the nutritionist gave her to look over just to see what they said. Overall, the advise was fairly sound. Don’t eat too much salty and sugary foods, focus on the protein aspect of a meal first, try to keep to the perimeter of the supermarket when food shopping. The useful advise you could expect from a good nutritionist. But there was one page that really irked me. As you might have guessed, it was concerning genetically modified organisms or GMOs. It started off with:

“A Note about Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, the environment, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, but if you avoid processed foods you are already ahead of the game since many ingredients in processed foods include sugar, corn, canola and soya derivatives. Look for NON GMO project verified seals.”

The passage was then followed by a list of foods labelled DO NOT EAT to help you avoid accidentally consuming a GMO.

Now, whether you are against the use of GMOs in food or in general, that’s purely up to you. There are valid reasons to be for or against them.  In other words, I don’t mind what your stance is on the topic, provided that they are based on facts rather than hysteria. What I don’t like is when people spread misinformation. I find it  particularly disappointing when a professional is responsible for spreading false information to the public.

For those of you who don’t know, genetic engineering is the practice of deliberate modification of the genome in plants and animals (or fungi…or bacteria). It’s a very old practice which has been used by humans for many centuries, but has recently be hugely improved with the use of technology.

After reading the passage from the nutritionist, I was little surprised at first. Really? I thought. That’s not how I remember it when we covered it in high school. I guess things have changed now that there’s more evidence.

I was curious to find out in what way GMOs were causing harm to humans, animals and the environment and looked up a few articles with Google Scholar. One review by Paparini and Romano-Spica  stated that “despite no described medical condition being directly associated with a diet including approved GM crops in large exposed populations such as 300,000,000 Americans and a billion Chinese, public opinion seems to look at this new technology with either growing concern or even disapproval.” Sounds about right.

Another listed several ways in which GMOs may effect the environment and the breeding of the Monarch butterfly, but no significant results had been found to back up any of these potential concerns. There was no mention of any adverse health effects found in humans.

I typed “GMO” into regular Google to see what would come up. A great number of results flooded my screen, the vast majority of which seemed to come from health bloggers’ pages on how to avoid these evil things without giving any real information on why they were bad. One claimed that they all have more chemicals than non-GMO foods. I find this unlikely to be true. Especially considering how many GMO crops have been altered with a gene to make them more resistant to plant diseases and insect predators. If anything, they should probably have fewer chemicals, since they don’t need to be doused in pesticide. Personally, I’m pretty sure that consuming pesticide would do you much more harm than eating any kind of approved GMO.

Some people are against the use of GMOs due to fear of market monopoly by these large companies who own the patent to each GM crop and believe it harms the business of small family farms. To me, this at least seems to be a valid concern based on reason.

I do wonder why there is such hysteria surrounding the topic. The Washington Post released an article in 2016 addressing the unfounded fears of “Frankenfoods”, which was a quick and interesting read. It stated that the National Academies experts had reviewed relevant studies and had this to say about their findings;

“No differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts.” 

Also, “the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems. Among other things, the scientists found concerns that the crops are degrading plant and animal biodiversity to be insubstantial.”

People, particularly in the United States, seem to be terrified of them for no apparent reason. Is it because GMOs made using advanced technology has only become available until fairly recent years, and so we can’t be fully certain about their effects in the future? Do people fear that by poking around at organisms on a genetic level should be considered “playing God” and a sinful act? Is it simply because the idea of eating something that has been genetically modified sounds icky and a bit frightening? Perhaps they hear the word GMO and immediately think of this guy.

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I wouldn’t want to eat him either.

Whatever the hype is about, it certainly doesn’t seem to be based on facts.

5 Things I Miss About Somalia

 

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It’s been a while since I last visited Somalia. Despite it’s flaws in the eyes of the world (I mean, what country’s reputation improves after two decades of civil war, right?), there are many reasons why I wish I could be there in an instant. I really miss being there. The entire paternal side of my family is from there, the North in particular, and so I always feel welcome and at home whenever I do manage to visit. Every now and again I am reminded of some odd thing that makes me miss it more than usual. Today, it was some frankincense scented incense. Of course, anything frankincense scented feels simply disappointing once you’ve smelt the real deal.

  1. The food is so fresh. The fruits here in the UK, whilst still delicious, just can’t compare to the mangos and bananas you can buy in the local markets in Hargeisa and Berbera. Meat is also much fresher, even though I don’t eat that much. Chickens, goats, ans other animals are usually killed and cooked shortly before the meal, unlike readily killed and butchered animal parts you buy in the West. The are certainly fewer ingredients available, but the overall freshness makes the ingredients you have pack a punch as it is. I also miss traditional Somali foods like angello, sambusas and xalwo.
  2. I feel so at home there. I’ve spent the vast majority of my life so far here in the UK and feel very British overall, yet somehow whenever I go back I feel at home in a different way. I suppose it has everything to do with having so much family living there. I’m always discovering new family members, distant aunts, uncles and cousins, that I had never known about before whenever I go back. Something funny about Somali society is that everyone who is Somali has a place in it, depending on who you are related to and their Clan. No matter where you grew up or even if you have ever been to Somalia itself, there will always be a place for you. It gives you a certain sense of belonging.  Also, everyone looks like you (in a way). I love the diversity here in the UK, especially in London. People from all over the world can belong here, no matter what their background. But there’s a certain different type of belonging you feel when everyone around you is somewhat like you. In a similar way to feeling you belong in a pack of students wandering around a university where you are all usually the same age and at the same point in life. In Somalia, we all speak our own language (which I should get to better grips with myself), we are all Muslim (that I know of), dress in a similar way and the fact that we all have Somali features. I still consider myself to be predominantly British and English at that, but it feels wonderful to fit so well somewhere else.
  3. Somali is spoken everywhere. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can truly immerse yourself in the language. If you ever want to properly get to grips with a language, having it being spoken around you and to you constantly is a huge help, if not a necessity. My Somali speaking skills always fade after I’ve been away for a while, although speaking to family at get togethers helps. Somali is such a poetic language and hearing people who have used it their whole lives gives you a new appreciation for it.
  4. The weather is nice and hot. Sometimes it’s far too hot for comfort, but all hot weather sounds a treat when another Scottish winter is approaching. The ocean is wonderful too. A rich, sparkling blue and warm to the touch. I’ve heard it’s good water to go diving in if you have the equipment, with colourful fish and coral reefs.
  5. The clothes. I often wish I could wear my Somali clothes often while wandering outside in the UK, because they are just so comfortable. They are light and cool to wear and full of colour. They also make choosing an outfit nice and simple, you shove on a baati and headscarf and you’re good to go! Having said that, I do love the way we dress in the UK, especially in London. It feels great to put together a sleek and stylish outfit with a variety of clothing styles. Not that you can’t look sleek and stylish in a Somali dress! It is definitely harder to find modest clothing though.

 

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Disclaimer: none of the images above where created by me, but I feel they accurately illustrate the things I try to describe.

Thank you for reading this far and have a wonderful day.

A Somali Wedding in London

In my last post I mentioned that one of my cousins living in London was getting married. It was wonderful. More in “look at all this great food” sense rather than “aww, what a sweet couple they make” sense. To be fair, they seemed like a very nice couple together, but my main concern was pigging out on the impressive feast of Somali food there. My mum and sister told me off a couple of times for snatching up all the sambusas and I left with one heck of a food baby, which no one could see under my guntiino (loose fitting Somali dress).

While I won’t add any photos from my cousin’s wedding, I found quite a few photos from other UK based Somali weddings (and elsewhere) to give you all a picture of what it was like. Also, you can take a look at 2nukollection’s post on Blogspot where she has some several photos of a British-Somali wedding. Another nice post with some info plus a video can be found on worldinmybackyard.com.

If you are ever invited to a Somali wedding, the first thing to take care of is finding the right dirac or guntiino to wear for the occasion. Some women use it as an excuse for a trip to Dubai (lucky bitches), but sadly we didn’t have enough prep time (or funds) to do such a thing.

A dirac is more commonly worn, especially by older women. They’re large, colourful and made of soft, silky material.

 

The other most popular option is the guntiino, as mentioned, which is also made of nice silky material and is wrapped over one shoulder. With a guntiino you would normally leave your hair uncovered and your shoulders bare, but I’ve seen them worn in a variety of ways before.

 

Sometimes men and women will celebrate together in one aroos (after party) and other times the men and women celebrate separately. The ceremony itself is nearly always mixed. My cousin’s had the men and women party separately. The aroos is also something that starts late in the evening (say 9pm-ish) and goes on into the night. Sometimes they last only one night, others they last for days. My guess is that they tend to be shorter in the UK since work is less flexible and people need to be somewhere in the morning.

Weddings that take place in the UK and probably many other Western countries where Somalis live usually take a more Western approach than in Somalia. For example, it’s uncommon for the groom’s family to pay meher (dowry) to the brides’s family, or at least in the cases I’m aware of. I’ve sometimes heard of ‘meher’ being used to talk about the engagement, but I’m more used to it meaning dowry.  Also the ceremonies in the UK focus more on the couple rather than the family as a whole. In a traditional Somali wedding, neither the bride nor groom actually has to attend; their families can arrange it all on their behalf.A bride might also wear a Western style wedding dress and there may be a wedding cake. I’ve never actually been to a wedding in Somalia (or Kenya or Ethiopia for that matter), but I know many who have and they’re always keen to describe every detail.

In both the West and Somalia the bride is decorated in wonderful henna designs. My sister and I wore a little henna ourselves, but were careful not to make it too elaborate. To have nicer henna than the bride would probably be similar to wearing a white dress at a Western wedding i.e. not recommended.

 

No matter where the wedding is being held, there will likely be an abundance in Somali treats! Lots of xalwo (Somali sweets) and sambusas (otherwise known as samosas) plus much more.

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I’m no longer in London, so perhaps the updates will be more frequent from now on (hopefully). That said, I have exams soon and should be spending as much time as I can bare hitting the books. A nice update now and again could make a decent study break though.