March is here and that can mean one thing, and one thing only to a spud: that it’s time, once again, for the Organic Centre’s annual Potato Day. Time to meet my buddy Dave Langford and his rare, old and unusual potatoes, time to top up the ol’ seed potato stocks in advance of planting and, this year, having spent the past three years as a more-than-interested observer at the event, time for me to stand up and speak.
Category: Food Issues (Page 4 of 14)
“I despise patents.”
So declared Cathal Garvey at the recent For Food’s Sake event on the future of food.
Cathal is one of a new breed of so-called bio-hackers, which he explains as the use of biotechnology techniques “to do amazing things with very little.” As he talked about a brave new world of diy genetic testing and sequencing, you could see that here was a young man who wanted to harness the power of biotechnology for good – “to create cheap antibiotics on-site in Africa, to create biofuels from household wastes, and to help us grow more food with less chemicals, water and land.” Wow. An ambitious fella too, then, but in the very best sense of that word.
Right from the off, he made it clear that he didn’t like either of the traditional sides of the GM debate, but sees, rather, that the problem is not GM per se but the patents that are held on GM crops, which reduce bio-diversity, prevent people from seed-saving and put ownership of the food supply in the hands of patent owners. For someone like me, who is predisposed to think all genetic modification undesirable, the presentation certainly provided food for thought.
I was put in mind of Cathal’s talk this week, when it was reported in the papers that Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, have applied for a license to do outdoor trials at their research centre in Oak Park, Co. Carlow on potatoes which have been genetically modified in order to enhance their resistance to late blight.
To be fair, it’s not the first time that brioche has been called cake.
That famous quip attributed to the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, “qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” is most often translated to great dramatic effect as “let them eat cake.”
It seems that the Revenue Commissioners, in what they are calling a ‘clarification’ of the current VAT rules, have decided that brioche might as well be cake, because it will now attract VAT, as cakes do, at 13.5%, whereas previously it would have been classified along with bread, which escapes the VAT net. And it’s not just brioche: other items, such as croissants, bagels and even garlic bread are no longer sufficiently bread-like to qualify for zero VAT status. Really.
This came to my attention as I was leaving the hallowed halls of Trinity College, which had been the venue for the Bord Bia Irish Food & Drink Industry Awards last week. I happened upon Suzanne Campbell, who was discussing the issue and how it would hit small bakery businesses, with William Despard of the Bretzel Bakery (he who had made such an impression at the recent Savour Kilkenny Foodcamp). William was understandably exercised about the VAT hike.