Super K Sonic Boooum

October 24, 2010

The first episode of the Glowing Sushi cooking show is appearing at the Manchester (UK) Science festival as part of the Super K Sonic Booooum presentation (OCt 23 – 27 2010).

The SuperK installation by Nelly Ben Hayoun (photo credit Nick Ballon)

The SuperK installation by Nelly Ben Hayoun (photo credit Nick Ballon)

The Center at Grenswerk

September 24, 2010

The Center is presenting some of it’s recent research at the Art festival Grenswerk in Enschede, the Netherlands as part of the exhibition called ‘ Over Leven’, curated by Joris Laarman Lab.

Sept.: IgnitePDX, USA

A copy of the slides is available here. (.pdf)

In this talk I will present three hypothetical recipes that use actual biotechnologies that were created in the lab or have been field tested.

These recipes and the stories behind their ingredients will make the technology of Genetic Engineering much saner or much scarier depending on your point of view.

At the end I will make the case for the Genomic Gastronomer, a DIY BioHacker with an interest in food.

August: Food Scene, USA

August 17, 2010

On August, 10th Zack from the Center for Genomic Gastronomy appeared with artist Cat Kramer on the Radio Heritage Network‘s radio show and podcast “The Food Scene”. Listen here.

“This week on The Food Seen Michael sat down with Catherine Kramer & Zack Denfeld to talk about biohacking, Monsanto and GMOs, using glow-in-the-dark fish to make sushi, plus Zack’s experiences in India and Cat’s social experiment distributing free food. Tune in for an extremely insightful look at the way we currently source food and the way we may some day source it, sci-fi style. This episode was sponsored by Hearst Ranch: grass-fed beef from California.”

Thanks to host Michael Harlan Turkell for putting together such an interesting podcast, and Roberta’s Pizza in Brooklyn for hosting, hooking it up and generally being awesome.

July: Next HOPE, USA

July 21, 2010

On July 18th the Center gave a talk titled “Eating GMOs: Glowing Sushi, Fish Tomatoes and Impossible Recipes” at the Next HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York. The theme for this year’s conference was “Visions of the Future from the Past.”

Although the Center didn’t get it’s act together to give a formal speech at the conference, there was room in the 4th track for day-of lectures. (It’s great that HOPE allows for such last minute additions.)

The audience had some great questions about emerging agricultural bio technologies. It was exciting to be able to talk to an audience of hackers, because we at the Center see a ton of parallels between the early years of phreaking and hacking, and what is currently happening in the world of biotechnology and biohacking.

One audience member had a really nice suggestion that people should get together to create an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for BioHackers. Maybe it could be called The Genomic Frontier Foundation (GFF): Defending Freedom in the BioTech Century. However, the space of biohacking is so murky at this moment it is unclear what exactly it would be defending. I think we can safely say that a GFF would work towards removing unnecessarily restrictive IP regimes which prevent legitimate researchers and hobbyists from building on previous work.

So far the BioTech Industry has attempted to create strategies for genetic copy protection such only hacking hybrid plants, terminator gene style technologies and terms of service outlawing breeding each paralleling the way the Entertainment industry has tried to control its content. Perhaps young BioHackers could draw on the ideas and strategies of computer hackers in making inquiry and information sharing as open and free as possible.

In order to make the topic of Genomic Gastronomy relevant to the hacker community the talk tried to make case that studying and understanding the historical and technical precedents of agriculture and genetic engineering will make us more informed and sophisticated community of biohackers.

For example, hackers and phreakers who understand the technical specs and historical precedents that have defined the way that information flows through a system can explore and interact with more parts of a system and probe for exploits. Databases like the Information Systems for Biotechnology are a treasure trove for BioHackers who seek to understand how and why industry and government have focused on certain genomes or technologies at the expense of others, and how these initial conditions have defined boundaries of exploration that can be overcome with curiosity and ingenuity.

Here was the original hypothesis of why hackers might care about GMOs going into the talk

– Biotech is the Future
– There is no Honeymoon
– The BioTech industry is already consolidated and information and access are difficult to come by
– There is a rich but invisible history of technical and cultural detail for biohackers to mine

After spending the last few days reflecting on discussions with audinece member and reading entries from Dear Hacker, the above statements could be revised.

Biotech is the Future That is actually a technoutopic industry-hype statement. (Humans have been co-authoring the BioTech future since at least the advent of agriculture). One of the points that the Center has continuously made is that Permaculture and Organic farming are also forms of BioTechnology. Don’t believe the hype of a BioTech Panacea, just make informed decisions about how to deploy and hack the range of biotechnological systems available to improve the conditions on planet earth for human and non-humans.

There is no Honeymoon. The Center had assumed that there was some sort of honeymoon period for phone and computer hobbyists where everything was open and free before it was commercialized. And while the world wide web of 1998 is a very different place than the web of 2008, Dear Hacker and 2600 are both reminders that the free spaces were only carved out by curiousity and vigilence. There was no “honeymoon” for computer hackers, and there certainly doesn’t seem to be one for BioHackers.
The BioTech industry is already consolidated and information and access are difficult to come by. This still seems true, but there are lot’s of great organizations such as DIYBio, iGEM, OpenPCR, Hackteria, Center for Post Natural History etc. trying to reverse this trend.
There is a rich but invisible history of technical and cultural detail for biohackers to mine. Yes, but we need to find better resources and organize and visualize them in ways that make them useful to a larger number of curious BioHackers.

There may be a video of the talk floating around somewhere which we will post as soon as we are able to locate a copy. There were two other excellent food related talks at the conference. Gweeds from Food Hacking introduced his new project Food Genome, and served up some Sausage + Star Anise Fruit RollUps to the Audience while talking about Black Hat Food Hacking. Jeff Potter who wrote Cooking For Geeks spoke about hardware hacking Sous Vide cooking, important temperatures and other food chemistry. Inspirational both!

Provenance of Transgenic Ingredients

July 15, 2010

The Center recently shared the stage at the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore with Daisy Ginsberg and James King. They were in India helping mentor a group of artschool biohackers.

We started talking to Daisy about her Synthetic Kingdom project. How would some of the ingredients we were studying at the Center be represented in her new proposed taxonomy?

The Genomic Gastronomer is not only interested in the physical and chemical properties of an organism, but also a food stuff’s provenance. What are the cultural selection mechanisms and biotechnological affordances and biases that led to an organism’s current state and usage as a food? One way of starting to map the provenance of transgenic organisms is connecting the mother organism and the genes that are transferred horizontally into them.

Here is our first attempt at such a map. It includes recent ingredients including BT Brinjal, the Fish Tomato and GloFish.

Creating taxonomic and visualization standards would be particularly helpful in the ongoing research of the Center. One problem we have run into on Wikipedia is finding appropriate naming conventions for organisms such as the “Fish Tomato” which existed in a lab and in the cultural memory, but does not have a scientific or even commercial designation. At least a map of the phylum’s that are being connected is a useful start for tracing the provenance of the organism. On the other hand, the potential to hyperlink between articles HAS made it easy to reference The Winter Flounder in relation to the Fish Tomato.

The Center looks forward to helping designers and scientists create spaces on the tree of life for the ingredients that we study and consume!

June: CKS, India

June 12, 2010

On June 11th – The Center for Genomic Gastronomy will be speaking at CKS in Bangalore, India.

Food System Design: Innovation & Conservation

Zack Denfeld from the Center for Genomic Gastronomy will present a few projects that address the challenges facing the intentional design of food systems, making the case that eaters, cooks and taste matter. Glow-In-The-Dark-Sushi, Dairy Farmer Hackers, Brinjal BioDiversity and the Graveyard of Transgenic FoodStuffs will all be covered. The event will last 90 Minutes inclusive of Q&A.


November 18, 2021 - December 12, 2021
Grafill, risography exhibition, Oslo, NO
October 24 - November 21, 2019
ClimATE, Aalto University, Espoo, FI.
March 1, 2018
Climate Fiction PT
October 21 - 29, 2017
Dutch Design Week: Embassy of Food
October 19 - 21, 2017
Experiencing Food (Lisbon)
Nov. 5 - Apr. 2, 2016
2116: Forecast of the Next Century
Nov. 5th, 2016
KiKK Festival Workshop