What is vegetarian cheese?

When you order something vegetarian at a lunch room, you probably get a sandwich or salad with cheese in it. But did you know cheese is actually not vegetarian usually? So all those restaurants are wrong when they serve dishes with cheese in it and say it is vegetarian. Unless they can prove that the cheese is actually vegetarian. Cheese might be the nr 1 food product in the Netherlands, every Dutchie loves it, and many Americans love their "Gouda" too!

What does vegetarian mean

First of all, What does "vegetarian" mean? Most people consider food vegetarian if  no animal has been killed to produce that food product. So with that explanation foods derived from animals, like eggs, milk and butter can be used as the animal has not been killed for it. But some people argue that the production of milk and eggs is also not that humane for the animals and they also refuse to eat that too. So there are many different kinds of vegetarians, that the exact meaning of being vegetarian means something different to each person. On the most extreme end is veganism, and vegan food which means the food has no animal derived ingredients whatsoever. There are vegan cheeses on the market. But I personally don't like "fake" vegan cheese.  A lot of times vegan products are too processed, or are full of fats and/or sugars to make it taste good.

Is cheese vegetarian

Cheese is only vegetarian if vegetarian rennet is used to produce the cheese. Most cheeses use animal rennet. Rennet is a complex of enzymes found in an animals stomach, to digest the mother's milk. These enzymes coagulate the milk. (separate into a solid curds and liquid whey) To get this rennet you have to extract substances from animal stomachs.... (yuck!) They are a byproduct of veal production. So there goes your idea you save an animal by not eating meat...

Vegetable rennet

Vegetable rennet is made from either fungal/bacterial sources or genetically modified micro-organisms. (different plants like figs, nettles, thistles, mallow, and ground ivy (Creeping Charlie) to name a few) Sometimes it is even made from the mold Mucor miehei or soybeans. These plants  also have coagulating properties.

GMO rennet

I was taught that there are even cheeses that are made with GMO (vegetarian)rennet, so besides checking what rennet is used, you should also find out if the cheese is made with GMO ingredients or not. In the Netherlands, organic cheeses and cheeses for export do not have GMO. The cheeses made in the Netherlands and sold in the Netherlands usually do.

READ MORE: The Story behind GMO

READ MORE: About rennet and vegetarian cheese

READ MORE: About vegetarian cheeses

Love, Lonneke
p.s. for the Dutchies: Vegatopia has a list of cheeses sold in the Netherlands and you can read about vegetarian cheeses ( in Dutch).
First published on  July 30th 2013, updated in 2020

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

The story behind GMO

"OMG GMO!"  There is a lot of commotion around GMO seeds & food in general. Specifically around a few Big GMO Corporations who are engineering these Genetically Modified Organisms. Let's just go into what this whole fuzz is about and if you should be worried.

Where can you find "GMO"

It is very likely you and your family ingest GMO ingredients daily by eating (processed) foods, supplements, drinks & snacks. It is basically possibly used in most foods you eat. But what is it really? And how do you know in what food GMO ingredients are used? Let's start at the beginning and I will tell you all that I know.

What is GMO exactly

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. That means that the DNA of the organism (food item/seed, fish, animals) has been altered, changed. Genes are taken out, and genes from other organisms are put in place, so that that seed is able to grow faster and withstand diseases and other negative influences from outside forces. This means the DNA is completely changed. The produce maybe looks like what you are used to, but it is nothing at all what it used to be. It can actually mean the fruit & vegetables you know, that you find now at your vegetable stand on the market in a gigantic, perfectly shaped form. (which is not natural. Normally there are many different varieties of vegetables, not one is alike) There are also Genetically Modified (GM) salmon, corn, and there are issues right now with GM wheat. Basically gen-tech companies are trying out their technology on every part of organisms alive right now. A few big players are Monsanto, Syngenta &  Bayer.

Most technology and innovation so far has brought us so much good and new information, wealth & success. It was just a matter of time people would try to change and "make better" essentials for living like water, air & food.

Why do Big GMO Corporations change DNA of our foods?

Because they say that it will "strengthen" the product and the farmers will have a better harvest with better crop and less loss due to diseases, bugs or bad weather to name a few problems every farmer deals with every year. Food products are made to withstand more hars weather condition, which the pro-GMO people say is needed to be able to feed the World and make food cheaper. And don't we all want to feed everyone in the World and pay a low price for it too?

Some of the GMO issues:

GMO Problem 1: Bee Killing

The "Frankenstein" GM seeds surprisingly enough are able to grow to a full grown food item, but there is a side note: ONLY with certain kind of pesticides, that is of course sold by the company who engineered the GM seeds. And these pesticides are a big problem because they seem to have caused the death of about 90% of wild bees and 80% of domesticated bees in the USA in only a short time period. (with the so-called neonicotinoïds) We need bees to pollinate our crop to grow. So that is big problem. Without bees: no food: no life. No matter how much money you have or money you make: without bees life is pretty much impossible.


Ever wondered why beekeepers and bees have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles on the road from one place to another? Why do they have to travel anyway? The  reason is that there aren't that many bees to pollinate our foods anymore and beekeepers need to travel their colonies to pollinate all crops around the country, which wasn't needed a few decades ago...

RELATED:  Save the Bees!

GMO Problem 2: Infertility

Another problem of these engineered seeds: They are infertile. Yes, infertile. That means they can't reproduce. We have grown foods for millions of years and never have we grown or eaten foods that were infertile. We could grow foods, and the seeds from that food, we could sow and then next year you have a new plant. Growing food was a simple basic thing in life. It is how we did agriculture for as long as humans exist on Earth, but things seem to change rapidly. Not too mention that there have been reports that eating GM foods can make people and animals infertile too. That would mean we would stop reproducing. That would be a quick way to limit the amount of people on the planet, and that sounds pretty scary.

Normally produce has seeds in it. Ever eaten seedless grapes or watermelon? That is not normal. It seems convenient having no seeds in vegetables or fruits, but remember: those seeds are there for a reason.

GMO Problem 3: farmer dependence/vendor lock.

A few Big Corporations have patents on these GM seeds and have a monopoly in this field. They sell their GM seeds to farmers, who then can use them one time only (remember these seeds can only germinate once) with buying the pesticides the same company offers and then they have one time only a great harvest (hopefully). What happens the next year? The farmer has to buy the seeds and the pesticides again from this company: making the farmer dependent only on the Big Corporation.  "Vendor Lock".

GMO Problem 4: cross breeding/contamination and patent infringement.

If a farmer does not use the seeds from these Big Corporations, and one GM seed is found on their farmland, they are forced to from that moment on to buy the GM seeds from then on. And with GMO land being everywhere it is possible that organic land gets contaminated with GM seeds due to cross-pollination through the wind blowing it onto the land or rain making it seep into the organic land to name a few possibilities. So more and more farmers are forced to buy from these Big Corporations, and you can imagine this is a growing number.

Farmers feel with these patents have no choice and are with their back against the wall. When land is contaminated with GMO, it is hard to clean it and some countries even needed to burn down entire pieces of land to try to get rid of it. But if one of these Big Corporations find out you have even 1 seed on your land, you need to pay up, or you get sued because you are "using their patented seeds" and "we can't know for sure if you don't have more than 1 seed on your land". Like farmers really want to have GMO seeds that badly... well anyway... It is said that many farmers are suffering and don't know what to do or how to take care of their family without being forced to pay the Big Corporations. Down hee you find a YouTube documentary about recent issues.

It is said that in India alone about 200.000 farmers have committed suicide because they did not know how to pay off the debts they have with these giants or how to move away from these Big Corporations. They thought suicide would be better for their families.


GMO Problem 4: Agent Orange and other pesticides causing diseases.

Large amounts of pesticides are ingested by people when they eat food that has been sprayed with pesticides. Pesticides are no good and are said to cause a big range of serious diseases. And GMOs are also said to cause diseases like big cancer tumors.

One of the main pesticides that was used in the past is called "Agent Orange", and was also used by the U.S. military as part of its chemical warfare program during the Vietnam War. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects as a result of its use. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have health problems due to Agent Orange. It was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical.

Monsanto is also the company that invented the DDT, "Roundup" herbicide and the growth hormone rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) that would help cows give 10 to 15% more milk. They also invented the sweeteners Saccharine, and they also were the producer of Aspartame, which is a very controversial sweetener used in everything from light sodas to "no sugar" sweet foods (Check labels!).

Other GMO issues:

GMO crop and their pesticides are very hard on the environment. it completely depletes the ground from all their essential minerals making it in the end unfit for any other crop growth in the future.

GMO decreases biodiversity of this World enormously. There are less diverse plants growing due to expansion and reducing costs of producing foods. The strong ones win. Some seeds even have built-in pesticides to make the crop resistant to bugs, animals eat it and they die because of it. Less Biodiversity = less life & fun on Earth.

GMO's aren't labeled in most places in the World. No one knows when they buy something with GMO or not. The Big Corporations are fighting to not have their GMO foods labeled, for instance in the USA. Because they say that there is no proof that "their GMO foods are any different nutritional wise than non-GMO food." But if you are so proud of your product you would expect these corporations be more than happy to label their products? Clearly not. It seems to be more than fair to label foods, just like the labels "Organic" and "fairtrade" so consumers can make a careful choice of what they want to feed themselves and their family.

Around the time President Obama signed the same-sex marriage act, he also signed the "Monsanto Protection Act", as some anti-GMO groups call the bill, which has been written by Monsanto itself, an which has come into place to "protect" farmers. It really means bio engineering companies like Monsanto seem to be "above the law" and they are protected from litigations, given immunity from Federal Courts, even in case their products turns out to be harmful for consumers. (check link above for more information about the Act)

Stand up against GMO's

There is a lot of discussion Worldwide to decide what to do with this whole GMO thing. So Far the USA has voted in favor. In China some shipments of GMO crop have been denied. There are also countries that have banned GMOs in Europe like France, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy & Hungary to name a few. Some have even burnt down ten thousands of acres of GMO seed infected farm land and asked the Big Corporations to leave. The European Union is deciding what to do with this "seeds" issue and wanted to put a certification in place for all seeds. But this would not be a good idea either because 60% "certified" seeds would be owned by these Big Corporations again. And if for instance you grow plants and then give seeds from it to your neighbor, well that would be illegal. So far the Netherlands have voted against a EU law like that. But there is hope. it can be different. A country like Bhutan is considered to be 100% organic, and a lot of other countries as said have banned the use or import of GMO. So it is still possible to fight it. The GMO issue is changing daily so it is worth to follow the news regularly. And speak up of course too if you want this all to become clearer.

GMO, it may sound smart and great engineering, and I even agree with that it is amazing that scientist are able to completely change nature this way, but I will say it is A VERY BAD IDEA. It seems a few Big Corporations want to "own" and control the entire food system worldwide with their patented system, with crop that can't reproduce itself, and therefor every person who has to deal with the Big Corporation in the future to be able to get the most essential thing in life: food.

One good thing: you have a movement against GMO: The Non-GMO Project that is starting to label foods that are proven to be GMO free. Check for the label on the product packaging.

The gigantic control of these Big Corporations of the entire World food system & the unknown health impacts of GMO are the reason why a lot of people Worldwide marched on May 25th in the so-called "March Against Monsanto".  In the past most people did not dare to speak up against such powerful companies, as they basically have their people in every powerful position in the country's government and government food safety institutes. People were afraid of such a powerful force. But more and more people notice this GMO issue is affecting them, that if they don't speak up, nothing changes for the better.

Over 2 million people worldwide in 400+ cities in 51 countries got on the street and spoke up about what they find important: safe food, GMO free and fighting for labeling of what is GMO. This is only the beginning. They are bound to make this a more worldwide issue as it is. Bees are dying, the environment is suffering, more and more food related diseases are rising up... it is a mess. Money and profit seem to go over people, animals and the Planet.

March Against Monsanto, Union Square, NYC, May 25th 2013
March Against Monsanto, Union Square, NYC, May 25th 2013

Lonneke at March Against Monsanto NYC 2013

Lonneke Engel at March Against Monsanto, Union Square, NYC, May 25th 2013

They were marching again in October 2013, and they say they won't stop until GMO is labeled on all products and even better: GMO use has totally ended, and only natural organic foods are in our food system. (if it is even possible to reverse the effects from growing, developing and eating GMOs)

This is what we should do to protect our food supply:


There are few studies regarding GMO, that don't show that it is that great. In France a research showed rats fed with GMO corn develop huge tumors. Maybe these studies aren't totally accurate, but there aren't any researches either that can totally state that GMO food is safe for consumption. So far all proof on every level is against the use of GMO and the monopoly of a few companies Worldwide.

People think they can trust the government of their country always making the right decisions regarding the most important things in life: air, water supply, food & safety. People think they can trust that what is for sale in the grocery stores and on the farmers market is healthy, natural and organic. But it seems along the way, money and profit have taken over that initial goal.

Thankfully more and more people are standing up for the good cause, and aim for a 100% organic agriculture. Technology is not always bad, there are also companies that are trying to get better results in agriculture but without altering the DNA of the food, but bringing more efficiency and sustainability to agriculture and less use of water, energy and sunlight even.



There is a company I am following in Den Bosch, The Netherlands called PlantLab. A representative of this company , Gertjan Meeuws, was in a tv talk show with me last year where he told about their ventures. It is in my opinion not my ideal way of growing crops, but maybe there are areas around the World where this could be a solution. What I was told is that they grew vegetables finding the most perfect environment for each vegetable they grow. It takes about a year to find the ideal situation for each vegetable. And that means it is in a room with LED light, the perfect amount of water and nutrition given to the plant,  and it is more energy efficient than any mass agriculture business out there. What you need to grow all the vegetables you like, is so small it can be placed in houses and big buildings and feed people locally. I tried a pepper, and it tasted pretty good! Is that the future? Local small farming in house? Or is it still that nothing beats organic farming outside in the Sun and rain? (even if too much Sun and or rain is maybe not that great for the plant?)

Also, Worldwide there are Organic/Eco farming movements. I went to one in Ibiza called Casita Verde for a shoot and I loved it. People do everything on the land together, the farming, the cooking and they stay on the farm and cook and eat together. There is a lot of happiness and the food tastes great! Every Sunday in the Summer you can join them for lunch for a small price.

Lonneke for Dutch Marie Claire 2012 at Casita Verde

People don't want eat something engineered in a laboratory. People don't want to be a science project. That is never a good idea. I choose and fight for organic foods with their OWN DNA.

If we all unite on these subjects, we will stop all the big corporations that are only in this thing for profit.

What can you do?

I think it is a great idea if everyone grows some vegetables and fruits that do well in the climate of their own garden, and then share it with your family, and people locally. But one powerful thing you can do: only buy food you believe in. That means you should shop consciously and read ingredient lists and educate yourself more on these ingredients.

We have to go back to growing our own pure, natural unprocessed foods without any additives, and definitely with their own DNA. Making money over health is not what people want. People want happiness, time spent together with family, nature, organic food, clean water and clean air. Let's not forget that that is the most important to keep you alive, healthy & happy!

Love, Lonneke


This way the toxic name Monsanto will be erased from people's daily lives, but the toxic substances will stay. We now have to just be more careful and keep a good eye out for Bayer's endeavors with this acquisition.

Monsanto was sold to Bayer for $66 billion , and the sale was finalized on June 8th 2018.

Bayer adds Monsanto's toxic legacy to it's own



More Information regarding my story

First published on June 2nd 2013, updated in 2019

Healthy Food: Ask and you shall receive

I've had crazy weeks in my life... 4am starts, 12am wraps, you know - all those glam 'life of a model' moments. Nothing I hate more than eating stuff that makes me feel lethargic, heavy and clogged. Unfortunately when working long hours or late sometimes models have to choose between skipping a meal or eat fatty, processed, or chemically treated food! Certainly not the ideal for a gorgeous figure and face that needs using again tomorrow, the day after, and hopefully the day after that.

Little collage of my green juice, quinoa salad, and lovely location of one of my shoots last week.

How I prepare for photo shoots

I usually pack an enormous fridge bag full of healthy food like dehydrated snacks, green juices, organic salad vege's and fresh fruits, bottles of my 'Supergorgeous Almond Mylk' and plenty of raw chocolate options for snacking, such as my raw cacao protein bars (from the book), goji berries and cacao beans, and a nice big slab of raw chocolate. It lasts a few days usually.. This time, unfortunately I ran out.

That one time I ran out of healthy snacks

I was driving 4 hours homeward bound, late at night with only a few hours sleep from the night before and soo tired. I was wishing I had some delicious SOMETHING to keep me awake and there was no organic coffee, or organic anything at the service stations... So I asked for something crazy! I wanted a Chia Latte but without the 'powder' they make it on which is full of sugar, flavorings and other evil things... but they couldn't get their head round that one, so I asked for a 'Earl Grey' (delicious tealeaves infused with Bergamot) Latte with a big pinch of cinnamon and a spoonful of honey and, made on non GM soy (lucky they had this!). It was the best of a bad bunch and ended up tasting delicious! I drank it with the last of  my healthy snacks, my dehydrated cacao cookies and felt very thankful.

My delish raw cacao cookies, makes for perfect travel food ;)

Boost Juice on my way home

On another big drive home I was fortunate enough to have access to a Boost Juice bar (a juice bar chain all over Australia) where I custom ordered a beetroot, pineapple, lemon and ginger juice and asked them to create a frappe with it adding in frozen mango, and green tea powder and it was PERFECT!

Organic farmers market tomatoes made a yummy energizing snack!  

Ask and you shall receive

I'm writing this post to encourage you to be bold! Go ahead, ask for crazy things to suit your needs! Even in places that you think won't have any healthy food that you could eat. The more we do this, the more people will realize the need to have healthier, raw, GF/ DF/ SF, organic, non-GM etc options available in places where now there is only fast food as an option.

Love Abigail O'Neill xxx

First published on November 28th 2012, updated in 2019