23May2019

Andaman Chronicle

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Gelatine Companies in India Have No Excuse

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

New things are happening on the food front that are exciting and potentially earth saving. From clean meat, which is real meat made by multiplying cells instead of using animals – which will remove the millions of animals that are grown and tortured for food – to milk that is made in the same way. One company has started making real yolks without chickens.

And now comes gelatine.

For the last five years I have been trying to get the Government to make a law, asking for all medicine capsules to be vegetarian. Millions of people, like me, can’t eat medicines because the capsule is made of ground animal bone from cows and pigs. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) made a number of committees. Presentations were made, issues discussed and, finally, he agreed that capsules should be vegetarian. Then the gelatine industry started feeding the press, and their lobbyists got into the act,…it would make them expensive, vegetarian alternatives were not available, all not true.  Then the political order came that this was not to be done as it would have “political repercussions close to the elections” – meaning that some politician’s friend was in the gelatine industry. So, we are back to where we started after five years, and I am really sad.

Gelatine is a flavourless, colourless, gelling and thickening agent made by throwing animal skin, bones and connective tissues into an acid, or alkaline, bath and dissolving them.

The animal parts, used commercially, are pig skin, cow hide, cattle bones, fish skin.

Gelatine dissolves in hot water and gels when it cools, and creates a texture and bite in confectionary such as sweets, marshmallows, desserts, cakes and jellies. It is used to simulate the “mouthfeel of fat” in low fat foods and to create volume in foods ranging from ice cream, all Chinese food, soups, cream cheese, gummy bears, wine, beer, apple juice and vinegar , pill capsules, frosted cereals, yogurts, dips and even some frozen vegetables. It’s what gives them their chewy, rubbery strength.

Food & beverage is the biggest market for gelatine, followed by nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetics such as face creams,  shampoos, hair sprays, soaps and nail polishes.

There are vegan alternatives to gelatine : agar agar, pectin, starches, gums. But companies using gelatine say that they do not have the same chemical and mechanical properties. They are also slightly more expensive.

But, now a company, Gelzen, has been founded in 2015 to produce animal-free gelatine, for use in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products, in a new way. Gelzen co-founders are  molecular biologist Nick Ouzounov, Phd, and Alex Lorestani, Phd, who studied medicine at Rutgers, and bacterial pathogenesis. While studying at Princeton they asked themselves the question: Why has the consumer goods industry still not benefited from synthetic biology to the extent that medicine has? We no longer have to slaughter a pig and take its pancreas to get insulin, so why should we do it for gelatine and collagen?

Geltor (previously known as Gelzen) is a California based company that seeks to disrupt the gelatine market by providing the same gelatine – except that it is animal free. It creates designer vegan collagen for the best skincare products, and in 2018 it won the CEW  Beauty Innovation Award. CEW is Cosmetic Executive Women - 8,600+ beauty industry professionals who know the best cosmetics in the market.

The San Francisco-based company seeks to supply the overwhelming demand for gelatine. By taking the machinery that builds collagen in animals and moving it into microbes, Gelzen can make a customizable, cost-competitive, safe, animal-free and environmentally friendly product. Gelzen explains the simple logic behind the cruelty-free gelatine on its website: “Scavenging essential products from animals presents urgent economic problems, environmental problems, public health problems, and, for many, moral problems.” Gelzen has been heavily invested in by food and tech investors.

Most people don’t know they are munching on a sweet containing fish or pigskin. But, if they did, I am sure they would not buy the product – even if they are meat eaters. It’s not just religious (halal/kosher/cow/pig issues) but also about animal diseases. The vegetarian/vegan market is growing and there is a significant demand for a vegan alternative that can precisely replicate the unique qualities of gelatine. The current market for gelatine has been estimated at 3 billion dollars (current price is about $8 dollars per kg),so there is great potential for a cost effective alternative. People are already paying four to five times this amount for gelatine substitutes.

What Geltor has done is, it has taken microbes and genetically engineered them to produce collagen from which gelatine is derived via a fermentation process, without using or harming animals. Gelzen’s scientists program bacteria and yeast with the same genetic information as in animal tissue that produces gelatine. They then use these biological strains to ferment gelatine.

According to Lorestani: “We start with a suite of microbes that naturally produce proteins but we give them a set of instructions for making collagen [from which gelatine derives] in the form of genes. We are basically programming them to build collagen for us. The process can also be customized so we can make gelatin with a specific stiffness or beer clarifying agents with a particular property.”

Geltor’s animal-free collagen (N-Collage™) launched in April 2018. Their aim is to have significant commercial quantities available by 2020, but they have already started selling.

The use of animals as edible proteins is now fast becoming archaic. Once all these companies, with alternative production systems, come on the market, people will wonder twenty years from now why they ever ate meat and got all their diseases. Why they let millions of acres of land be devastated for animal grazing, why they let 70% of the water be used for animals, why they allowed greenhouse gases to be emitted by animals.

For the 400 million vegetarians and vegans in the world the suspect presence of gelatine in foods often means going without pudding, or having to read endless number of labels. It also means that many companies lose customers. Now, with Gelzen in the field with safe, sustainable, and no animal cruelty in its real gelatine, the gelatine companies in India have no excuse at all.

If you want to be a distributor here are the contacts:

Contact Email : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone Number : 415-325-3560 

San Leandro, California, United States

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Do you still think you are superior?

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Read this and thank God that you are still the boss of the planet. The day ants grow in size, the dominance of the human race is gone:

* Do ants stand for election? Yes, and the months long process is almost as brutal as the Indian elections, according to research published in the ‘The American Naturalist’.

When an Indian Jumping Ant colony’s queen dies, the workers, alerted by the absence of her familiar scent, gather at the centre of the colony and form a circle around the larvae and pupae.

One ant starts beating another ant’s head with its antennae and immediately most of the ants in the colony are in fencing duels, which escalate to slaps and then head biting, and “police” ultimately intervene and restore order.

The ants beat each other to see who gets to lay eggs and who doesn’t. Every Indian jumping ant worker can lay eggs, but only if they win. After weeks of conflict – no one dies but lots of minor injuries - 10 to 15 top candidates emerge and they transform into Gamergates. Their heads shrink, their abdomens fill with ovaries and their life spans grow from six months to five years. The group shares egg-laying power and shared dominance.

Each ant goes from tournament to tournament establishing its power. During a tournament whoever locks their jaws around the head of another ant wins. The winner gets a boost of a hormone, called dopamine, and this helps it in its next tournament. Dopamine starts activating their reproductive system, while the losers’ reproductive capabilities shut down.

As more ants lose and drop out of the race, gangs of five ants, not taking part but rooting for a particular candidate, will start policing ants that refuse to give up. They will corral the ants for two days and refuse to let them move/take part till the hormone subsides . In effect these “goondas” are choosing the leaders by forcing ants out of the race.

Three political results emerge: when ants fought evenly with each other and fair tournaments were held, the result was more democratic : a  bureaucratic structure with a CEO at the top and power filtering by rank down to the last ant. When the duelling and head biting took place then a multi leader shared dominant structure came out. But when the goondas or gangs stepped in a despotic hierarchy emerged — a single ant on top, with all other ants sharing the same rank.

* According to the Institute of Science and Technology, Austria’s paper published in Current Biology, when ants move into a new nest they spend the first days cleaning it thoroughly, like humans moving into a new home. Lasius neglectus ants  spray their nests with formic acid  ensuring that the nest is clean for first-time occupancy. The adult ants  are protected from the poison by a thick skin and eggs by a protective "shell", the  pupae are first covered in a silk cocoon so that they are protected as well till the acid settles down after killing pathogns, just as humans use gloves when they use harmful cleaning products.

*  According to a study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science when fire ants are flooded, or need to find land, they band together to form a  bell shaped structure, similar to that of the Eiffel tower.

An individual ant is capable of supporting as many as three other ants, to which it connects using sticky pads on its feet. By continuously scrambling over each other, the ants are able to eventually build a solid base, building on each other from the bottom up. Making tall structures allows them to hunt for empty spaces in which they can create new homes.

In water, fire ants form a dough-like ball by grabbing onto each other with their sticky legs. By staying perpendicular to each other the ants distribute their weight evenly, creating a raft that floats even when fully submerged in water.

* Researchers from the University of Freiburg have discovered how desert ants find their way in a featureless environment. They count precisely. When they set out in search of food in the flat, bare, environment, they are always able to find their way back to their nest on the shortest route possible. The ants measure the distance they have gone by recording how many steps they have taken -- and they use the sun for directional orientation, taking time into account via their own internal clock.

1.   Summary:

* The ant's acute sense of smell has allowed them to create the most complicated social organization on earth, next to humans. The waxy layer, that covers their bodies, is the source of the complex aromas that ants use to communicate. These smells act like uniforms, identifying individual ants by caste, colony and species, regulating their behaviour to make sophisticated and disciplined social systems. Ants see their world through their nose, their antennae. "Ants are unique in the insect world because they have more than 400 odorant receptors compared to 60 to 80 in other insects like fruit flies and mosquitoes. Ground-based communication is very important for them. For instance, ants emit alarm smells from a gland in their mouth if something disturbs their nest. It is a cue for ants to grab their larvae and run to safety. Defenders of the nest start running around with their mandibles open ready to bite. Bright orange citronella ants make a strong citrus smell when alarmed, and Pheidole ants stink of faeces.

* According to the journal Current Biology, carpenter ants who feed from  plants  construct defensive shelters around the base of these plants, to guard against other insects and protect their food supply. Ants that live in hot, dry habitats survive long periods of drought by storing food. Their specialized seed-harvesters collect huge stockpiles underground. Honey pot ants use their own bodies as storage containers.

*  A colony of ants employs queens, gardeners, cleaners, foragers, nurses and soldiers, and each have developed specialized tools and skills to get their respective jobs done. Within each species, division of labour varies, depending on an individual's age and sex. Ants looking after the brood, and working inside the nest, tend to be younger, while those defending the nest and foraging outside are older.

* Ants also teach in formal schools, with teachers and pupils, according to a study in the journal Nature. Older ants teach younger ants how to find food, using a poking and prodding technique called tandem running. When female worker ants of the species Temnothoraxalbipennis set out for food, they take another ant to make the journey with. If the second ant doesn't know where to find food, the leader teaches her through tandem running. The process is slow. The follower pauses every once in a while—creating a gap between it and the leader—to search for landmarks. When she is ready to continue, the follower catches up and taps the leader on the hind legs. If the gap between them gets too large, the leader slows down and the follower speeds up. The opposite occurs if the gap becomes too small. This is the first non-human example of bi-directional feedback teaching—where both the teacher and pupil modify their behaviour to provide guidance at a rate suitable for the pupil's abilities. In time, the followers learn the path  and become teachers .

* Fungus-gardening Attine ants cultivate fields of fungus to feed the colony. But have the same problems as human farmers—crop-eating pests in the form of parasitic microfungi. A study in the journal Science shows that these ants use antibiotic-producing bacteria to keep their harvests from reducing.

The undersides of these ants is covered with fuzzy white clumps, and there are tiny cavities inside, which contain bacteria producing antibiotics that are deadly to garden pests. To keep the fields clean, the ants rub the bacteria all over. The ants use special glands inside the cavities to produce food for the bacteria.

Do you still think you are superior? 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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Cow Dung Logs: A Lucrative Solution

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Lakhs of people die in India every day. The Muslims bury their dead. The Hindus burn theirs. Conventionally, firewood, electricity or LG gas is used to burn human bodies all over the world. But there is no more ‘waste” wood left to burn. In Delhi they have found a unique solution. The government gardeners pretend they are going to “trim” the existing trees. They lop off most of the large branches (often killing the tree) and sell them to Nigambodh ghat. The profit is given to the whole department – much like the traffic police share their bribes with the entire thana.  In rural India, a death in the village means a tree is cut down, and the most common victims are mango trees. So, wild mangoes are disappearing and with them goes the entire pickle industry. It takes about 600 kilos of wood to burn one body. The cost to the survivor is above Rs 15,000 or more. The act itself of cutting a tree is illegal, but who cares when a parent needs to be cremated.

A separate problem is the cow that has stopped giving milk. The farmer does not want to sell her to the butchers, but he does. Or leaves her on the road to fend for herself. She wanders into the fields and is beaten to death with lathis. Or her legs are cut viciously by the barbed wire that most farmers use illegally. Hundreds of terribly wounded cows come to my hospital in Bareilly every day, their skin stripped off their thighs and their bones exposed.

Gaushalas are few and far between. And most of them are prison cells for this gentle animal, who often starves to death in the gaushala itself. There is no proper management of any gaushala, no doctors, and often the owners show the same disdain towards the milkless cow that her previous owners did.

Here is a business solution to both problems. We need to change our attitude towards the cow. Milk is NOT the most important part of the cow, it is her dung. This dung should be used in the cremation grounds. For Hindus, the cow is sacred and so using cow dung, instead of wood, should not pose a problem.

There is a machine for making cow dung logs. My gaushala in Delhi has bought one two years ago and we sell the logs to Nigambodh Ghat. Even though we are not regular, because we are far too busy with actually saving cows, we earn Rs 60,000 a month. It is a fraction of what Nigambodh needs: they could absorb a hundred times that amount.

Cow dung logs cost less. There was an optical problem till recently, since people did not want to burn their relatives with round Kandas/Uapalas. But now they are being made into long logs by this machine that makes them with minimum manual intervention. While putting fresh cowdung into the machine we also put a little fragrant “havan samagri”.

The cowdung log making machine is very reasonably priced: between Rs 25,000 – Rs 35,000.

A combination of dung and straw ( or any aggro waste – harvested crop residues) is fed into the hopper of the machine. A screw mechanism is provided in the machine which helps in mixing the raw materials thoroughly , compressing them and extruding them out. There are different moulds to make different log sizes. The logs are then put in the sunlight to dry out the moisture, making them hard and sturdy. The machine can be operated on electricity, one horse power motor, or even manually. It is easy to operate, requires little maintenance and no hard labour. Even women can operate it efficiently.

A cylindrical hole in the centre is provided to facilitate easy drying and efficient combustion. The machines available are capable of making one log per minute of 3 in. by 3 in. and 3 feet long. Logs can also be cut into small pieces for use in choolas and havans. The slurry from biogas units can also be used for making logs, by mixing it with straw of any harvest residues.

Almost every village in India has a cremation ground. Every town certainly has two. If someone were to take a contract to supply the logs to them, they could earn lakhs for the gaushala and for themselves. Cows would stop dying of starvation and be treated with more respect.

Cowdung can also solve another very important problem. The trees of India are supposed to be planted by the forest department. They get crores of rupees every year to grow trees and then to plant them. Their success rate – according to their own figures – is 2% !!

One of the reasons (apart from the fact that they never grow plants in their nurseries, and pinch the money!) is because they grow the seedlings in  thick black plastic bags which they buy for Rs 4 each. This is expensive, but, even worse, these plants are usually planted along with the plastic by careless forest labour, resulting in 100% mortality. Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh supposedly planted 1 crore trees each last year. Less than a few hundred have survived. Think of the waste of your tax money.

Another machine by the same maker exists, to make cow dung flowerpots of different sizes. These can be offered commercially and sold to the forest department for their nurseries, and to private nurseries. The pots give nutrition to the plants, withstand the rain and watering and can be planted in the soil along with their plants. We would, have a dramatic increase in trees and reverse climate change. Every state government should change their policy, so, if you are reading this, please cut it out and send it to the CMs and Forest secretaries. (To tell you the truth , I tried with one state. The CM agreed. I sent the machine. The local forest officers said it didn’t work. It turned out that the plastic sellers pay them a rupee per bag )

The logs and pot making machines can be purchased from:

Dip Technologies, 10-11 Umiya Estate, Near Bharat Party Plot, Rabari Colony, Amrai Wadi, Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380026

Ph: 8048018796. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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