NO NO NO to Impossible Burgers!

by ~

The impossible burger

Earlier this year, Impossible Foods launched the Impossible Burger 2.0, a processed, genetically engineered, vegetarian patty which contains soy protein concentrate and soy protein isolate. This was done to suit the needs of Burger King and the forthcoming Impossible Whopper.

I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years; I’ve been a healthy food advocate for over 20 years; I’m a huge proponent of meat reduction – and I urge you NOT to eat Impossible Burgers for various reasons, including:

  • Impossible burgers include soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate – which are not good for you.
  • The soy used in the burgers is genetically engineered.

To explain:

Impossible burgers include soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate

Soy protein isolate comes from isolating the protein in soy, which means all other nutrients are chemically stripped out. The chemical process used to turn soy into soy protein isolate can create unhealthy byproducts such as aluminum, hexane and possibly nitrites. The resulting ingredient is no longer a soybean. Read this Well + Good article for more information.

soy protein isolate

And as with most things, the amount and frequency of consumption is the main concern; Americans are now eating more foods containing isolated soy protein, including:

– Veggie burgers

– Fake meat products (like tofu dogs and fake lunch meat)

– Protein powder

– Protein bars

– Some granola products

The bottom line – if you are looking for a healthy food option, you should try to avoid soy protein isolate and concentrate. If you want to eat soy, the only types that have proper health benefits are miso, edamame and tempeh. (Sorry, but even tofu is processed and consumption should be minimized.)

Impossible burgers include GMO’s (genetically modified organisms)

Founder/owner Pat Brown proudly proclaims Impossible Foods is using genetically engineered soy for its soy protein ingredients. (The original recipe also included GM ingredients in the ‘heme’ they used to make the burger ‘bleed” but the new burger has a greater concentration of GMOs from the switch to soy protein.)

Genetic engineering (GE) has been – and still is – a very controversial issue. According to the World Health Organization, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.”

In other words, genetic engineering is the process of taking the DNA of one species and forcibly inserting it into another unrelated species. For example, taking the DNA from a flounder and inserting it into a tomato in order to create a tomato that can withstand freezing. (That attempt did not succeed.)

The top 5 GM food crops grown in the U.S are:

  • Corn
  • Soybean (there are 20 genetically modified varieties)
  • Potato
  • Canola
  • Alfalfa

Genetic engineering or modification is completely different from hybridization, cross-breeding or grafting, which farmers have been doing for thousands of years. A hybrid is the offspring created by human means through breeding plants or animals of different varieties, species, or races. For example, Meyer lemons are created by combining a lemon tree and mandarin orange tree.

In addition, the GE soy used in impossible burgers is particularly troubling. The soybeans have been genetically engineered to withstand the weedkiller Roundup. The original thinking was that a farmer could spray an entire field with Roundup and only the weeds would die.  The soy plant had been genetically altered to withstand the pesticide.  But constant spraying on fields has led to superweeds resistant to the weedkiller, leading to more and more herbicides being sprayed on the fields.

This results in more pesticide residue on the product as well as more pesticide runoff in the soil and water. This runoff leeches into waterways and has contributed to the deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico, which is currently over 8,500 square miles (about the size of New Jersey). A deadzone is an area where no life can live – in water, it is so toxic that no oxygen is present, meaning no life can survive.

In addition to harmful environmental effects, Monsanto claimed that Roundup was safe to use, yet over 11,000 lawsuits are pending against Bayer/Monsanto. (Bayer bought Monsanto in 2018.) The first 3 lawsuits alone awarded $2.2 BILLION to the plaintiffs. Users of the product have – and are – contracting cancer.

Do you want to eat a vegetarian burger made with questionable ingredients that are not the healthiest food option, ingredients that poison the environment and are causing cancer?

A better option

If you need a veggie burger, the best option I’ve found is the Dr. Praeger’s brand. All of the ingredients in the products I’ve seen are real/whole – no protein isolates or concentrates. (Note: I am not a spokesperson for them – their burgers simply have better ingredients. And I’ve tried them and they taste good, way better than the frozen pucks sold from other companies.)

As a side note, if you are vegetarian or rarely eat meat, be careful with both the impossible burger and beyond meat – I’ve eaten them both and do not care for the mouthfeel or taste, and they both upset my stomach. (I had the worst reaction with impossible burger.) These new veggie burgers are not being made for vegetarians, and I have heard from other vegetarians that they’ve had digestive issues after eating either burger.

We should have a vegetarian burger option at fast food restaurants and readily available and tastes great – and we need a burger that is made of whole ingredients like mushrooms, black beans and sweet potato. If Dr. Praeger’s can do it, so can other companies.

Bottom line

The goal is meat reduction – not veganism, not eating heavily processed fake burgers. We must get rid of factory farms and the industrial model of agriculture as soon as possible – but creating an over-processed veggie burger is not the answer. It’s only going to create its own set of problems. 

We also need to remember to support small family farmers. If you choose to eat meat, cut back on the amount you eat and look for better quality – look for grass fed, grass finished meat from animals raised on pasture, preferably on a regenerative farm. More on all that, and possibly a bit more on Impossible, in future articles.

 

Diane Hatz is Founder/Executive Director of Change Food, as well as CEO/founder of Whole Healthy Group, working to create a regenerative world for people, animals and the planet.

Change Food aggregates the best of the best already working toward healthy food change, amplifies their voices through our events and programs, and advance their work and the goal of the food movement – to provide healthy, safe, delicious, fair food for ALL.  Support us today!  #changefood

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