Risky Whiskey or Science Under the Influence?
Kevin Folta

Whiskey distillation is anything but the clean process you imagine from school chemistry or checking boiling points. If it was, you would get a flavourless grain spirit rather than the slightly smokey (depending on how the malt was roasted), slightly mouldy taste of fresh distillate.

There is an effect called “vapor distillation” which transports molecules that are nominally too high boiling into the distillate — phenoles, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and a couple more. More of these are dissolved during the ripening in a fire-treated oak cask, but they are present already in the raw distillate.

I agree that it is unlikely that GMO DNA is going to be found in the distillate. It is a lot more likely that the GMO produced herbicides are found in the distillate. Just because no chemicals were sprayed on the fields doesn’t mean that there are no chemicals in the plant, quite the opposite is true. A GMO is a biochemical factory producing chemicals combatting pests, and the chemicals are inside the plant, distributed through its water system, all the way to the fruit.

Ok, most of the stuff in corn is starch, separated from the cellular water in vesicles that make up the dry part of the grain. This selection will probably reduce the amount of GMO-produced chemicals in those vesicles. How completely I cannot say.

Sprayed herbicides mostly act on the surface of the plants. They can be washed off. They are also supposed to be bio-degradable, although those processes are unlikely to happen on the plant surface — it takes biofilms with a varied biocenosis to tackle this, as are found in fertile soil.

The European aversion towards GMOs isn’t that much about GMO-produced toxins (few people understand this, really), but about GMO vectors changing other plants in the ecosystem. This has been observed around GMO test fields, and will lead to neophyte invaders which might spread epidemically.

To be blunt, in the USA the cat has been released from the cage, and there really is no hope to stop secondary GMOs from spreading any more. The Atlantic Ocean still provides an ecological barrier which might protect European ecosystems.

Such ecological invasions don’t become visible over night. They may take decades or even centuries to erupt. I am thinking about the sudden realisation that the song bird population of Guam had disappeared due to invasive organisms, in that case spiders. However, invasive plants are a serious problem, too, and herbicides aren’t a solution if these invasive mutants inherited the original GMO’s increased resistance to herbicides.

The article makes its points based on assumptions which aren’t the whole truth.

As to the role of ethanol as a recognized carcinogen — any lipophile compound that is stored in fat cells in the liver may lead to reduced fat metabolism. Ethanol is the least dangerous of such compounds, with a well established mechanism that will even allow the body to draw some energy from the final product, acetate. For ethanol to have carcinogenic properties you will have to consume quite a lot. A surplus of hardened fatty acids or saturated fatty acids is as likely to cause the very same type of cell degradation that might lead to cancer.

Yes, there is a proven connection between gross ethanol abuse and cancer. There is a proven connection between car exhausts and cancer, too. Governments tax either, and tobacco products, too, rather than forbidding them. In case of the USA, why should they — the second amendment gives every citizen the right to own and use killing implements. Foodstuff causing adipositas or fattening the liver might be treated just like guns.

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