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Safety of Mosanto's rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone)


dougery
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As for organic milk...on what basis do you deem it healthy?  (I'm sure it's just fine, but on what basis do you make that judgment?  After all, human lifespans were much shorter in the past when were drinking thinks like "organic" milk.)

How about the fact that organic milk's levels of pus and bacteria from rBGH-induced mastitis are measurably lower?

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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"How about the fact that organic milk's levels of pus and bacteria from rBGH-induced mastitis are measurably lower?"

if true (and I would like to see a published, peer-reviewed study please), then that's what pasteurization is for.

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"How about the fact that organic milk's levels of pus and bacteria from rBGH-induced mastitis are measurably lower?"

if true (and I would like to see a published, peer-reviewed study please), then that's what pasteurization is for.

If you pro-treatment people are correct, there is but one peer-reviewed study, which is seemingly not available on the internet.

I have a hockey game to watch, but I will continue my research tomorrow. I am in the middle of the FDA's report atm, in which they think that the Canadian researchers came to the wrong conclusion. It may take me a while to digest it. So far what I've gathered is that you need to take 4 times as much milk from a treated cow (something like 6 litres per day per 10 kg of body weight) as a heavily milk-drinking child would drink in order to approach the levels of...[item] (sorry, can't remember and don't want to say the wrong thing) that could potentially be dangerous. But as I was walking home, I thought I remembered that saccharine had to be ingested in amounts in the thousands times what a human would likely ingest in order to cause cancer, yet saccharine was banned, was it not? (was it? or is Tab still out there, somewhere?)

All this stuff accomplishes is to increase milk production by 10%. Which is another reason Canada said no: our cows are doing just fine, thanks.

I would say that the admitted fact that there are 25% more incidences of mastitis among rBGH treated cows (this is not disputed by anyone as far as I have seen--only the importance of it) leads to the fact that there are 25% greater amounts of pus and bacteria, as pus and bacteria are the results of mastitis in dairy cows. As far as I can tell. That and swollen udders.

So, OK, pasteurize away, and commercial dairies aren't particularly fun places to begin with it seems, but I'll take the lesser amount of pus if it's all the same to you.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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"Smaller doses may be less of a concern, but that does not mean they are not a concern."

Trace amounts of various substances are present in everything.  They're also innocuous.  See potato skins.

Some may be more innocuous than others. What we don't know may hurt us.

As for organic milk...on what basis do you deem it healthy?  (I'm sure it's just fine, but on what basis do you make that judgment?  After all, human lifespans were much shorter in the past when were drinking thinks like "organic" milk.)

I am not making the affirmative statement that it is healthy. I am saying that I am still skeptical of BGH. I am also not anti-technology. Many real advances have been made. But then not all advances are real or real significant. I still fail to see what the potential benefit of this technology is to me. I do see the risks.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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"I am not making the affirmative statement that it is healthy. I am saying that I am still skeptical of BGH. I am also not anti-technology. Many real advances have been made. But then not all advances are real or real significant. I still fail to see what the potential benefit of this technology is to me. I do see the risks."

Well, BGH is something that occurs "naturally" in every cow. So, you're skeptical of milk in general, or cows? I assume that what you really mean to say is that you're skeptical of cows with heightened amounts of BGH. Fine. I assume that you're skeptical of dairy cattle in general (as opposed to cattle raised for beef...dairy cattle have been bred for milk production which inevitably means that they have heightened levels of BGH and have been so for centuries).

The benefit of BGH is increased milk production -- which means lower prices. You haven't actually identified any of the risks that you see.

Personally (and I expect to get flamed for this), I'm of the opinion that the current "organic" craze is primarily a product of conspicuous consumption...a status symbol for the affluent.

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If you pro-treatment people are correct, there is but one peer-reviewed study, which is seemingly not available on the internet.

I have a hockey game to watch, but I will continue my research tomorrow. I am in the middle of the FDA's report atm, in which they think that the Canadian researchers came to the wrong conclusion. It may take me a while to digest it. So far what I've gathered is that you need to take 4 times as much milk from a treated cow (something like 6 litres per day per 10 kg of body weight) as a heavily milk-drinking child would drink in order to approach the levels of...[item] (sorry, can't remember and don't want to say the wrong thing) that could potentially be dangerous. But as I was walking home, I thought I remembered that saccharine had to be ingested in amounts in the thousands times what a human would likely ingest in order to cause cancer, yet saccharine was banned, was it not? (was it? or is Tab still out there, somewhere?)

Deborah,

You won't see a second study getting published in a major journal unless it refutes the first study. 1990 is to far back for me to access it online, but i could look it up in our departmental library if you are really interested.

I think sacharine is back, for the reasons you cited. As my Organic Chemistry professor used to say, "Too much of anything will kill you, you drink too much water you drown".

Do any of the rBGH critics understand that this is a peptide hormone (small piece of protein) and that unless you inject it (like they do to the cows) it is going to be harmlessly digested? I doubt that you can possibly consume enough animal products to measurably raise your own growth hormone levels.

Shouldn't you avoid all animal products (from Organic sources as well) since they are loaded with hormones, including steroidal ones which are probably much more likely to make their way into your body?

Nathan,

Excellent points. Unfortunately the public is easily frightened by what they don't bother to understand.

Edited by R Washburn (log)
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As I have pointed out elsewhere, "organic" definitely does not mean "more healthy" when it comes to food. There are plenty of "organic" pesticides, for example, that are far worse for humans and the environment than the common "not organic" ones. And, as others have pointed out above, it is also the case that dairy cows already have elevated levels of BGH due to selective breeding and it is further the case that rBGH will simply be digested if it is in the milk you drink anyway. How much more these levels are raised by rBGH is an interesting question.

I have parents and friends who are chemists and medical researchers, and I've heard enough from them that I am not concerned about rBGH in my milk. And, as others have pointed out, Pasteurization is taking care of many of the other things we might be worried about. I don't agree that things like the increase in diabetes (much of which I believe can be traced to better diagnosis), obesity and other things can be traced or even significantly associated with rBGH. Increases of things like obesity can also be positively correlated with things like number of telephone poles per capita and other indicators of a modern, first world lifestyle. If anything, it's a fact that children in America drink far less milk than they did 30, 40, 50 years ago. I know that when I was a child it was milk, water or nothing. We weren't drinking all the sweet fruit juices -- never mind sugared soft drinks -- that kids drink today. Go into a third grade classroom and see how many kids are drinking milk compared to juice. Back in the 70s it would have been 100% milk.

All this is to say that I don't believe there is sufficient evidence -- or really any convincing evidence at all -- to begin thinking that humans are substantially and negatively affected directly by drinking milk from cows that have been treated by rBGH. Where there is some cause for concern, in my opinion, is in the secondary effects that come from using rBGH. Primary among these is that rBGH is associated with higher use of antibiotics, and a higher use of antibiotics will lead to the development of more antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and strains of bacteria with greater resistance. That, in my opinion, is the real concern.

As for what kind of milk to buy. . . just buy the kind that tastes the best. I like to buy Ronnybrook, which doesn't use rBGH but also does not market itself as dogmatically "organic" either. And it's 100 times better than any supermarket organic milk I've ever had. It is often going to be the case that the smaller producers who are making the best-tasting milk will also be organic or anyway won't use rBGH. But I'd still rather drink great tasting milk from a small local farmer who is not organic and maybe even uses a touch of rBGH than pedestrian organic milk from a megafarm in California.

--

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I agree with all of this.

I actually don't like milk, but your advice is analogous to mine on purchasing produce. The major criterion in the nutritional value of produce is freshness. I'll purchase whatever is fresh -- usually local -- I could care less whether it's "organic" or "conventional"...it'll be more nutritious than something trucked in from 3,000 miles away no matter how it's grown.

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The major criterion in the nutritional value of produce is freshness.

This, of course, inevitably brings me to the fact that humans in First World societies don't really need to worry that much about nutrition. We're not undernourished, we're overnourished. Thus, the problem with obesity, which could be described as a "health disorder resulting from overnourishment." All this is to say that, at the levels consumed in First World societies, it's a wash as to whether the produce comes from next door or halfway around the world. Whoever is eating the stuff is probably going to be eating enough of it to get more than enough of whatever nutrients there are to be had from that food. That is perhaps for another topic. I only add it here to lend further support to the idea of buying whatever tastes best.

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i must not have explained myself very well earlier on. I never said that using additional BGH caused diabetes. What I did say is that there are a number of health issues such as diabetes that are mysteriously on the rise. The cause or causes are unknown. My principle point is that it is a very complex issue and because a single study of a commercial product even in a reputable journal such as Science, deems it "safe", doesn't necessarily mean it is so. There are potentially other factors besides direct effects on an organism. I am not saying that the additional use of this hormone is bad. I don't know that. I am just not yet convinced of its value (to me) and that it is not bad.

I agree that "organic" or "natural"as buzzwords are not necessarily all that it is purported to be. I much prefer sustainability for a guiding principle.

I also agree that quality of product is of paramount importance. Every food item bears some degree of health risk. The question is, is the item worth the risk?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I also agree that quality of product is of paramount importance. Every food item bears some degree of health risk. The question is, is the item worth the risk?

I would be more concerned about choking to death on a steak or getting Q-fever from my organic milk then with risks associated with rBGH.

My principle point is that it is a very complex issue and because a single study of a commercial product even in a reputable journal such as Science, deems it "safe", doesn't necessarily mean it is so.

It is not that it is a single study; you will not see another publication on the subject in a reputable journal unless it refutes the first study. That is the way science is done.

I found a copy of the August 24th, 1990 issue of Science and read Juskevich and Guyer's "Bovine growth hormone; Human food safety evaluation". They conclude that no rbGH can make it into the blood stream from an oral dose. They also looked at the possibility that milk from rbGH treated cows could have deleterious effects from the increased levels of IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) in the milk and concluded that "biologically significant amounts of IGF-1 would not be absorbed".

Edited by R Washburn (log)
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Well, BGH is something that occurs "naturally" in every cow.  So, you're skeptical of milk in general, or cows?  I assume that what you really mean to say is that you're skeptical of cows with heightened amounts of BGH.  Fine.  I assume that you're skeptical of dairy cattle in general (as opposed to cattle raised for beef...dairy cattle have been bred for milk production which inevitably means that they have heightened levels of BGH and have been so for centuries). 

The benefit of BGH is increased milk production -- which means lower prices.  You haven't actually identified any of the risks that you see.

Personally (and I expect to get flamed for this), I'm of the opinion that the current "organic" craze is primarily a product of conspicuous consumption...a status symbol for the affluent.

I won't flame you for your last statement because in my experience I have seen that to be true. Certainly, there are many who do their research but it seems sort of 'trendy' to buy organic right now.

I will say that, though you challenge Doc above, I think that Deborah has identified some of the risks of elevating BGH manually that are quite striking. We should not discount the research that indicates significant stress on the herd. Even if the result isn't a direct, measurable difference in human health, we all should be concerned about animal husbandry practices resulting in such stresses that are used solely by a drive to produce cheaper milk.

Edit: to correct clunky sentence.

Edited by slbunge (log)

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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if true (and I would like to see a published, peer-reviewed study please), then that's what pasteurization is for.

The stance of the FDA (and mine) is that you can't filter in quality (i.e. if you are working on a sterile product, you are always better to keep it sterile the whole way through, not filter in sterility at the end)

Simply saying "pasteurize it" isn't quite solving the problem, because there are very real dangers with simply allowing a polyglot of bacteria to live in milk and then pasteurizing it. Not sucking on the teats til they bleed is a good option, IMO.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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  We should not discount the research that indicates significant stress on the herd.  Even if the result isn't a direct, measurable difference in human health, we all should be concerned about animal husbandry practices that are driven solely by a drive to produce cheaper milk.

I do agree with you to some extent. However, the stress on the herd is difficult to measure because by any stretch of the imagination, these milk cows are treated certainly much better than they would be in the wild. And their diet is much higher quality from a nutritional standpoint.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Simply saying "pasteurize it" isn't quite solving the problem, because there are very real dangers with simply allowing a polyglot of bacteria to live in milk and then pasteurizing it.  Not sucking on the teats til they bleed is a good option, IMO.

That is why we pump them full of antibiotics. I am also for irradiating the milk instead of pasteurizing. Pasteurizing doesn't get all of the bacteria, which is why milk spoils. Irradiate it and it kills EVERYTHING.

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Simply saying "pasteurize it" isn't quite solving the problem, because there are very real dangers with simply allowing a polyglot of bacteria to live in milk and then pasteurizing it.  Not sucking on the teats til they bleed is a good option, IMO.

That is why we pump them full of antibiotics. I am also for irradiating the milk instead of pasteurizing. Pasteurizing doesn't get all of the bacteria, which is why milk spoils. Irradiate it and it kills EVERYTHING.

:shock:

Gah! that sounds appetizing!

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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That is why we pump them full of antibiotics.  I am also for irradiating the milk instead of pasteurizing.  Pasteurizing doesn't get all of the bacteria, which is why milk spoils.  Irradiate it and it kills EVERYTHING.

But, we don't pump them full. The doses given are sub-therapeutic that have a half-life of measurable effect on the bacterial population. It doesn't KILL the bacteria like a therapeutic dose would. It selects for bacteria that are somewhat resistant in the population and lets them live.

I'd just be happy to see the milk get treated well from cow to store. Given the disparity in shelf stability I see between milk in different stores, I know that there are people not minding the store, as it were, when it comes to how long their milk, and by extension other products, are at any given temperature.

I don't necessarily see the fault as entirely on the hands of the farmer when it comes to rBGH milk. There are a lot of hands that the milk generally passes through from cow to table, and those hands need inspected, too, but you rarely hear about it--which is bad on us for not requiring more transparency at other ends of the food production industry.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Here we go again; I have watched or have been in discusions on GMO's or other science/tech influenced food or agricultural products. I am begining to see a pattern; there are those on the side of science and they never let their jab down and say that there is nothing wrong and are so insulted by those who could be so insulting to science, it (science) could never be wrong.

I have found that with little effort I have found in each discusion it is easy to find other research (science) that is based in sustainable agriculture like I belive university of southern calafornia. http://www.usc.edu:8766/uscweb/query.html

This is one of many research dept that has science to discuse the pros and cons of the various topics dealing with political foods issues. Monsanto has more money to sue your ass if you cross their path. One issue for Canada in the rBGH issue is that we do not realy need to increase milk production, they are already dumping tons of milk a year down the drain. It seems to be pointless in this country ( Canada) to inpute something that will increase milk productivity when it realy is not needed. How many times are we going to invent the same wheel?

steve

PS I am not anti science

I belive in democracy and labeling

that has always been my position, let the market dictate what monsanto can or can not do. The public should always have the right to know and choose.

http://articles.animalconcerns.org/ar-voic...lk_musings.html

Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Thanks for the input, stovetop, which contributes to this discussion. However, we disagree about this:

I am begining to see a pattern; there are those on the side of science and they never let their jab down and say that there is nothing wrong and are so insulted by those who could be so insulting to science, it (science) could never be wrong.

Whatever has happened elsewhere, I don't see evidence that anyone has been or is feeling insulted in this thread, so I think we probably can keep it focused on the arguments and not the persons without too much trouble.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks for the input, stovetop, which contributes to this discussion. However, we disagree about this:

QUOTE(stovetop @ Oct 28 2005, 04:54 PM)

I am begining to see a pattern; there are those on the side of science and they never let their jab down and say that there is nothing wrong and are so insulted by those who could be so insulting to science, it (science) could never be wrong.

Whatever has happened elsewhere, I don't see evidence that anyone has been or is feeling insulted in this thread, so I think we probably can keep it focused on the arguments and not the persons without too much trouble.

You are right; I did not mean to imply this, we can have a great open discusion. :laugh:

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Stovetop:

If I read you right, you would support the following label on any product containing maize (i.e. most cereals at your health food store):

"This product contains grains that do not and have never existed in wild form. They were engineered by human beings and are therefore not natural."

I also assume that you would support the following label on organic milk: "This milk product may contain trace levels of BGH."

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Simply saying "pasteurize it" isn't quite solving the problem, because there are very real dangers with simply allowing a polyglot of bacteria to live in milk and then pasteurizing it.  Not sucking on the teats til they bleed is a good option, IMO.

That is why we pump them full of antibiotics. I am also for irradiating the milk instead of pasteurizing. Pasteurizing doesn't get all of the bacteria, which is why milk spoils.

This is one of the major related problems I was referring to and one of the risks of this technology that is not readily apparent. What happens when animals keep getting pumped full of antibiotics is that that the bacteria against whom the bacteria are used become ever more resistant and the race continues at ever greater expense to fight those bacteria that might not have needed to be fought in the first place. This issue of antibiotic resistance is a huge one certainly amongst humans and the way antibiotics are used in animal husbandry by factory farms I am sure it is there as well.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I also agree that quality of product is of paramount importance. Every food item bears some degree of health risk. The question is, is the item worth the risk?

I would be more concerned about choking to death on a steak or getting Q-fever from my organic milk then with risks associated with rBGH.

These are apples and orange comparisons. At least with a steak I can anticipate the pleasure of it and enjoy eating it. Raw milk cheese as well. At least those have significant potential benefits for me.

My principle point is that it is a very complex issue and because a single study of a commercial product even in a reputable journal such as Science, deems it "safe", doesn't necessarily mean it is so.

It is not that it is a single study; you will not see another publication on the subject in a reputable journal unless it refutes the first study. That is the way science is done.

The study may or may not be a good one, but this statement is more than a little condescending and more than a little inaccurate. I have been involved in the world of science and scientific studies since 1977. My undergraduate major was in molecular genetics and I have been involved in laboratory and clinical studies over the years including having published and cited work.

I believe that there is a lot of potential benefit that we have received and smany till to be had from Molecular genetics and its offshoots, but I do not believe it blindly or because one study (even in a reputable journal) says that something is so. Studies can be flawed in any number of ways. Was that study funded by Monsanto? They would not be likely to fund or publish any additional studies to possibly contradict a study that supported their product. Unfortunately, that practice is all too commonplace in the world of industrial science. Merck and Vioxx an otherwise excellent and valuable drug are examples of this phenomenon as Merck apparently held back adverse outcome data. An independent study to adequately examine the issue would likely be very expensive to do and would quite likely not receive any help from Monsanto (e.g. product to examine) and could quite likely come under fire from the company's daunting legal arm.

Actually in most of the world of non-industrial science, corroborative studies are appreciated and welcomed. That is not at all uncommon in the medical literature. So the question I ask is why aren't there supporting studies? See above for a possible explanation.

I found a copy of the August 24th, 1990 issue of Science and read Juskevich and Guyer's "Bovine growth hormone; Human food safety evaluation".  They conclude that no rbGH can make it into the blood stream from an oral dose.  They also looked at the possibility that milk from rbGH treated cows could have deleterious effects from the increased levels of IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) in the milk and concluded that "biologically significant amounts of IGF-1 would not be absorbed".

This is good and somewhat reassuring. perhaps the potential direct effects really are minimal. I still don't see the real benefits to society at large. I think this is a case of a company selling a product. I am still not convinced that the potential benefits of this product outweighs the potential risks. However, I am not nor have I ever in this thread been talking solely about direct human health risks. Technology is not evil. Some if its products and uses can be dangerous, however, with the potential for many unforeseen consequences. I am also not saying nor have I been saying that "organic" is the end all and be all. I do believe, however, that some ways of doing things are more sustainable than others, more economically beneficial to society (as opposed to specific entities) than others and actually produce more varied and better products than others. I am not convinced that the addition of increased amounts of BGH recombinant or otherwise fits those criteria. That is not to say that other technologies could not and have not. I would not be able to do my job nearly as well as I do without so many technologic advances.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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[...]I know that when I was a child it was milk, water or nothing.  We weren't drinking all the sweet fruit juices -- never mind sugared soft drinks -- that kids drink today.  Go into a third grade classroom and see how many kids are drinking milk compared to juice.  Back in the 70s it would have been 100% milk.[...]

I realize this is a side issue in this thread, but I usually took a couple of small cans or cartons of apple or orange juice to 1st and 2nd grades and also drank Hawaiian Punch, otherwise known by many as "bug juice." And that was in the early 70s.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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My kids drink a lot of milk. We go through a couple of gallons per day. When I was a kid I drank a lot of soda. Now I drink water or wine. I prefer the taste of goat's milk or youghurt when I have cereal. While this could be heading off topic, I offer this in light of Sam's and Michael's posts and to reflect one source of my interest in this topic.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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