What follows is an interview between Mike Adams (from Naturalnews.com) and Sergei Zimin who represented the company that was once the distributor for Biofilam (at that time called “Modifilan”) in the USA. The product he is referring to in this interview was since rebranded to Biofilam, so the following interview has been edited by Inspired Nutritionals to reflect this fact, for the sake of clarity and accuracy. All instances of “Modifilan” have been replaced with Biofilam (correct as of today, and since 2008). The interview is here divided into sections according to topic, see our other articles for the full interview.
Mike: Many of you reading this may have heard about some of the benefits of plants from the ocean and, in particular, brown seaweed. You may have seen some of the recent news stories about the specific constituents of brown seaweed helping get rid of excess body fat, or you may have read about them helping to eliminate radiation poisoning from the body, or perhaps even about some of the anti-cancer effects of various seaweeds. Many of you are probably also familiar with the greatly enhanced longevity of the Japanese people, who probably eat more seaweed than any other culture in the world. Today we’re going to be talking about one specific type of seaweed, brown seaweed, and the extract form available in a product called Biofilam, and we’re going to be talking to Sergei Zimin, owner of Pacific Standard Distributors Inc. [They were the official distributors of (then) Modifilan, from 1997 to 2007. In 2008 their distribution contract had ended, and the original “Modifilan” product was rebranded to Biofilam. What’s now sold as “Modifilan” is a kelp product that does not use the patented process invented in Russia to create the original product which is what this interview actually refers to].
So thanks for joining me today, Sergei.
Sergei: Thank you for making this happen.
Mike: How long has your company been producing this product, and where does your brown seaweed actually come from? Is it ocean grown or farm grown?
Sergei: The raw material we make our extract from comes from Russian waters; it’s actually a far eastern part of Russia, off the Asiatic part of the Siberian continent, near the Kuril Islands between Japan and Kamchatka. People may also know these islands by their controversial political geography, which makes Japan claim this territory as their own northern territories while Russia — which actually took those islands after the Second World War — claims them as well. Our kombu — the common name of this variety of brown seaweed — is not farmed, and it’s not the type of sea plant that is planted or gathered. It’s in the middle of the ocean, about 600 miles away from the closest commercial port. The island around which we get this particular raw material is called Urup.
Mike: How do you harvest this? Is this off of a boat, or do you have divers?
Sergei: A boat is involved, but it’s a little tugboat from which we gather bunches of leaves hand-cut by divers and tow them to shore. The kombu leaves are huge. It’s the largest possible type of Laminaria found in a natural habitat. In order to make our product extract, you have to have a very large, elephant-type of leaf so you have lots of the gooey inside parts to squeeze out. It’s like aloe vera. When you cut it in half, you can even see some of the polysaccharide — that gooey substance inside the leaf. So the divers cut them in shallow waters, probably not more than 15 meters deep — which is what, like 45 feet deep — usually no deeper. They put several leaves in a bunch, tie them with a rope, and the little boat brings them onshore. We gather raw material for our product twice a year. The good thing about collecting this way — when we do it by hand — is that when you cut it with a knife, you come to the same spot next year and the plant will have mushroomed. You’ll see four leaves growing from exactly the spot where you got only one before. But if you do it by dragging — like they do it in the northeast states, Ireland or Japan — you have to look for these plants somewhere else. It’s not going to be sitting in the same spot. It’s not going to be in the same bay. So in our case, when we harvested our first batch back in 1997, we didn’t have enough funds, force, and money to hire any dragger or troller to get it. So we had to use divers. It turned out to be the best investment in our business, because later, we were told that the way we do it helps our business actually stay in business. We’re not afraid of losing the raw material because the more product we cut, the more raw material we can expect to see next year if we come to the same spot. But this particular kelp, Laminaria, is something only we can harvest in this particular quarter. And the way we do it is very sensible in all aspects, including the business aspect where simply, the more product you harvest, the more raw material you can expect to see next season. It comes from territories close to the islands, but it’s quite remote from the continent.
Mike: Sounds like a very ecologically sustainable system of harvesting.
Sergei: Yes, it’s a clean place. That is actually one of the questions retail customers ask when they find out about our product: “How far is the source of your seaweed from Chernobyl?” Because it’s one of the very few places that people generally know about in the ex-Soviet Union, you know? But it’s on the totally opposite side of the planet — a good ten thousand miles away from that place, and it’s 600 miles — at least — away from the first public sewer system.
Mike: Yeah — Chernobyl is in Western Russia.
Sergei: That’s exactly the point. Chernobyl is in the Ukraine, which is in the western part; it’s actually in Europe. So we are talking about islands that are in the far eastern part of Russia. You can’t get any further. It’s still called Siberia, but Russians call it the “Far East.” This is where I’m from. I was born and brought up on Sakhalin Island, which is the regional capital. My partner and I are both from this region. That’s how business started: I have known of this product for about 20 years.
Mike: So after you harvest these leaves, you squeeze them to get the juice, dehydrate the juice, and that’s the extract?
Sergei: It’s a little bit more complicated than that. We don’t just squeeze it, but it’s not a chemical process. After we pull them to shore, we have to instantly dry them so they don’t rot, so we put them on a wooden fence to dry out — it’s a very fast process, especially if you do it in the sun and the wind, which is a constant factor on those shores. And then we put the dried seaweed in little rolls and transport them to the mainland, where the initial processing takes place. We put a very small amount of water in to bring them back to life, which is a very fast process. They absorb an enormous amount of water, but at the same time, we have to use just enough to make the leaves juicy again. So we skin them, and the outer part of the Laminaria leaves goes into something that looks like a big meat grinder. We don’t throw away the skin part of kombu leaves, we grind it into something that looks like a paste. What is left behind of those leaves after we skin them is very thin, but you can touch it. It’s a small layer, a very thin layer of gel, the inside part of the kombu leaves. We don’t put that layer through the grinder; we cut it into chunks. That paste we get after we put the outer parts through the grinder; the paste gets mixed with those chunks of the inner part of the kombu leaves, and it’s squeezed through cheesecloth-like. We throw away what stays in the net, because this is actually the harsh part of the seaweed that humans cannot digest. The only creatures that actually can eat seaweed and fully digest it, process it, and turn it into something are the sea urchins and abalone. These are the only creatures that can munch on seaweed and work it through completely, fiber-wise. Anyway, that disposal part goes away, and the batch of gooey substance that was squeezed from the cloth goes into a cold vacuum blower — it’s actually called a drying chamber — where it’s a low temperature, and we can turn this big chunk of glue into something that dehydrates and starts to look like a big boulder. It’s like a big rock. So we have to physically crack it into smaller chips and put it in a big, commercial coffee grinder. This is the final step. We turn these chunks of rock into a powder, and this is what Biofilam is. Basically, we can’t say that this is a juice of seaweed, because first of all it’s dried; it’s in a powder form. By its nature, we can call it an extract, but at the same time it’s more mechanical extraction, a cold-water-processing product made by natural means. We don’t break anything; we don’t take anything out or add anything in terms of mineral content or composition. We simply make seaweed mineral qualities available.
Mike: What about the heat? Is there ever any heat processing?
Sergei: No. There is no boiling or heating. It’s a little bit above room temperature when the leaves gets squeezed, just because of the mechanics of the process, but the drying process is in a true cold-dehydration chamber.
Mike: So this probably explains, why your product has such a potent taste and smell. I have some of your product, and I’ve been using it for a while.
Sergei: It makes a big difference, yes? We do not kill enzymes.
Mike: That was one of my questions.
Sergei: We do not kill the living part, which is actually responsible for mineral transfer right after you put it in your mouth. Sometimes you definitely taste the difference, and natural eaters will love the flavor and smell of Biofilam powder. But for some people how it tastes comes as a surprise. If you open up the capsules and put them under your tongue, they bite you! That action actually shows that it’s a very alive food. Another thing is if you mix it with water, and just put it at room temperature for a day or so, it will get rotten very fast. It eats itself up like crazy. The so-called quantum properties of our product — which is the speed of polysaccharides, you know — is very high. There are dead foods. There are live foods, and then there are super-live foods. And I truly suspect that we belong to the third category. If you put a good, fresh cut of meat out and see what happens to it the next day, it’s the same thing with Biofilam. You can actually turn this into paste. If you mix it with water and keep it in the refrigerator, it’s fine. But if you leave it at room temperature or at a warm temperature, it really gets rotten very fast, which, again, proves that it’s a very alive substance.
Mike: And for those consumers, too — especially in America — who may not be consumers of a lot of seafood or sea vegetables, they may find the taste a little surprising at first, as I did. But intellectually I know that that’s what I want, because it tells me the potency of this is very real, and that it doesn’t have a lot of filler just to make it taste better. Besides, it’s not like you’re chewing on it, you’re just swallowing some capsules.
Sergei: Yes, you’re right, there is no filler. We are a small company, administration-wise, and our product has been made for 10 years now. We don’t use any fillers, no rice powder. Many manufacturers of food supplements do it by default, because they don’t want to clean their machinery often, and they want their powders to go into capsules easily. With our product, you really have to stand next to the encapsulator and do a cleanup regularly. We don’t use any fillers or preservatives. All you see in the capsule is just the extract itself, straight. And again, the powder itself has a very interesting and unique taste. For a natural eater, it’s very pleasant. Before I started to make this product, the way I used it was a tablespoon of powder mixed into a glass of lemon-honey water. Just squeeze half of a lemon in a glass of water, put a teaspoon of honey in there, and put a tablespoon of Biofilam, and you shake it together because that’s the best way to mix powder in, and you drink it. Very few people can do that because of its very strong taste, so the capsules are the best way to get it, especially for somebody who is looking to get extra benefit from our product and needing to take more of it. Eating six or eight capsules a day is very healthy — it equals a good level tablespoon of powder. The vast majority of people will have a very difficult time consuming that much powder daily, so capsules are a good way to get it.
Mike: Yes, absolutely. How many pounds of brown seaweed does it take to make one pound of your product?
Sergei: It depends on the size. The larger the size of the kombu, the less per kilo. But for about 40 pounds of raw seaweed, only one pound of our powder comes out. So it’s a 40 to 1 extraction ratio. With U-FN it’s about a 150 to 1, because we have to use a lot of seaweed to come up with a single kilo of U-FN. It’s an expensive product, too.