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Is It OK To Eat Cheese?

Posted on 21st June 2015

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A friend sent me the link to this story on io9 about cheese-making. I was shocked: I thought I knew about how cheese was made, having made it myself.

I thought cheese was mostly made with rennet, a by-product of slaughtering calves for veal. For many people this is already morally unacceptable, or at least questionable, but I don't have a problem with it. I like veal, and don't mind that animals are slaughtered to provide my meat. As the article describes, increasing demand for cheese, and decreasing supplies of calves stomachs to provide rennet mean that demand for real rennet outstripped supply a long time ago.

So nowadays, most cheese is made using GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms): bacteria which have been genetically modified to produce rennet. Now, many people have issues with even the existence of GMOs, let alone the consumption of food produced with them. I consider that at least some of the arguments against GMOs have merit.

What to do? I really love cheese. I describe myself as a cheese addict. My ideal dessert is cheese and crackers. Sheryl is also addicted to cheese, and often says that almost all meals are improved by the addition of cheese. The idea of giving up cheese is not going to be given any serious consideration in our household, whatever I think about GMOs. Also, I have never seen labelling on cheese which identifies whether it has been made with GMO-produced rennet or with natural (from calves) rennet, so I can't avoid GMO-produced cheese by reading the labels.

It is interesting, though. There are people around the world protesting about farmers growing GM-crops, and the risks of releasing GMOs into the wild, but it seems that agri-business and our governments slipped this one by us (it has been going on for years - since the 1970s!). Seems like you can't trust anyone, but that shouldn't be news to anyone.