UGH! I just read at What's Cooking America's yeast page that Instant and Rapid Rise yeast, which is often used in bread machines, is genetically engineered from different strains of yeast! You are supposed to use 3/4 of the amount when using them as you would regular dry yeast. No wonder my bread has a nice fluffy texture and raises easily! Also Instant yeast does not need double proofing, which I have been doing. I am going to go to the health food store today to get some lecithin and Ascorbic Acid powder to use as dough enhancers. It looks like I might need to get some regular yeast too. That's another thing, the SAF Instant yeast I was using has Ascorbic Acid in it as well, which could explain why my bread had nice texture. But it also has sorbitan monostearate - what's that? (see below)
This Bon Appetit article by Alton Brown, one of my favorite foodies/scientists, has some good general information about yeast. It does not mention genetic altering, just that the yeast is dried in such a manner that less yeast are killed, making more active and available. I have not found any info on genetic modification anywhere else by googling so I emailed the LeSaffre company who makes SAF Instant yeast and asked them directly. I'm not expecting an answer, but you never know. I also checked Cook's Illustrated (and had to sign up for a free trial membership). They had articles on using it and they evaluated it as the "cleanest" yeast to use in breads that don't have lots of milk and sugar to cover up the taste that comes from dead yeast which is found in active dry yeast (they die because of the drying process and this is normal).
Next I looked up Sorbitan Monostearate and Wikipedia does not paint a pretty picture. This site describes it as an emulsifier and it is found in a lot of things from cake mixes, puddings, imitation whipped cream etc to hemorrhoid cream! This PDF with FDA information says that it is used in yeast as a re-hydrating agent and cannot be more than 1% by volume of yeast. At least now I know why it is used, but I still don't know if it's "freaky but safe" or "best to avoid." Anything chemical sounds a little scary. The Center for Science in the Public Interest lists it as safe. They have an interesting list on that page, but I noticed they also list Splenda as thought to be safe. Further googling shows that it is considered safe for use in Canada, Ireland and Europe. Sometimes they ban things that we use here ( like GMO fruits and veggies and some additives).
I find this rather frustrating. The more you know, sometimes the less you want to know! :o)