International International bestselling author and independent filmmaker Jeffrey M. Smith is the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). His meticulously researched books and films document how the world’s most powerful Ag biotech companies bluff and mislead safety officials and critics to put the health of society at risk.
His first book Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, became the world’s best-selling and # 1 rated book on GMOs. His second book, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, is the authoritative work on GMO health dangers. It includes 65 health dangers, linking GMOs in our food to toxic and allergic reactions, infertility, and damage to virtually every internal organ studied in lab animals. The book expertly summarizes why the safety assessments conducted by the FDA and regulators worldwide teeter on a foundation of outdated science and false assumptions, and why GM foods must urgently become our nation’s top food safety priority. Former UK environment minister says the revelations in Genetic Roulette may “change the global course of events this century.”
Mr. Smith has counseled world leaders from every continent, campaigned to end the use of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH or rbST), and influenced the first state laws in the United States regulating GMOs. A riveting keynote speaker and popular guest on TV shows worldwide, he has lectured in 30 countries and has been quoted by government leaders and hundreds of media outlets including, The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC World Service, Nature, The Independent, Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, The Times (London), Associated Press, Reuters News Service, LA Times, Time Magazine and Genetic Engineering News.
Former US National Institutes of Health scientist Candace Pert describes Jeffrey as “the leading world expert in the understanding and communication of the health issues surrounding genetically modified foods.”
Mr. Smith has united leaders to support The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, a revolutionary industry and consumer movement to remove GMOs from the US food supply. He is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, producer of the films Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals and Your Milk on Drugs—Just Say No!, writes an internationally syndicated column, Spilling the Beans, has a regular blog on the popular Huffington Post, and is followed on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Mr. Smith lives with his wife in Iowa, surrounded by genetically modified soybeans and corn.
The Institute for Responsible Technology’s www.responsibletechnology.org Campaign for Healthier Eating in America mobilizes citizens, organizations, businesses, and the media, to achieve the tipping point of consumer rejection of genetically modified foods.
The Institute also informs policy makers and the public around the world about the risks and impacts of GMOs on health, environment, agriculture, the global economy, and the problems associated with current research, regulation, corporate practices, and reporting.
The Institute publishes the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to educate people about how to make healthier non-GMO choices.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, this is Caryn Hartglass and this is All About Food. So something interesting in the news today, something we’ve actually talked about a number of times and it was interesting to read that there’s a new article about “Ancient Bones Shows Earliest Human Infection”. It starts out, “Meat-eating – and diseases that come with it – have a long history among our ancestors, suggests a new study of an ancient hominin skeleton. The analysis of 1.5 to 2.8 million-year-old vertebrae of Australopithecus africanus recovered in South Africa reveals signs of a bacterial infection that is normally contracted from eating meat or dairy foods.” If you listened to my show a couple of weeks ago with Dr. Michael Greger we touched on this a bit about how most of these diseases that we’re inflicted with today are linked to the consumption of meat and dairy foods. Here it is, they’ve actually got some proof that it hasn’t just been going on the last ten thousand years or so, it’s actually been going on for over two million years.
I’ve got a great guest today. It’s Jeffrey Smith. He’s written a number of wonderful books on genetically modified foods. One of my favorites is called Seeds of Deception, Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating. He’s also written Genetic Roulette, The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods and been involved with lots of other projects. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The BBC World Service, Independent and on and on. He works nonstop about educating people about the health dangers of genetically modified organisms.
You don’t hear very much about genetically modified food in the news. I’m not quite sure why that is. Do you realize how many genetically modified organisms are in our food today?
There’s genetically modified foods in a lot of our foods even when we don’t intentionally expect it. So we’ve had science creating a number of different organisms that they’re forcefully injecting into foods today and it’s not really a natural process. It has some devastating effects that we’re going to find out about in a moment. One of the things that we’ve heard about from the companies like Monsanto that are trying to promote genetically modified foods in the food system is that we need them in order to provide more food for the planet.
Jeffrey, are you with us?
Jeffrey Smith: Yes I am.
Caryn Hartglass: So how are you doing?
Jeffrey Smith: Very well.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay great. How did you get involved with all the work you are doing today?
Jeffrey Smith: Well I went to a lecture 13 years ago and realized that they were about to plant genetically modified soy and corn all over my state of Iowa and sneak it into the food supply and feed it to millions of people and release it into the environment where it could never be fully recalled. I realized this is a catastrophe in the making. People need to hear about it, someone needs to say something and I looked around and realized I was talking to myself. (Caryn and Jeff both laugh.) So I decided to do something and so I ended up writing a book which became the world’s best selling book on GMOs–GMO Seeds of Deception–and I handed that out to senior political leaders in 25 countries and realized they’re not going to read a storybook where these scientists have been embedded in these stories, [5:04 this sentence is a little unclear?] of scientists that have been fired, scientists that have been stripped of their responsibilities and forced out. So I had to write another book called Genetic Roulette which is easily accessible information about the health dangers of GMOs, so that it all jumps out at you. Yes, it’s linked to thousands of sick, sterile and dead livestock. Yes, it’s linked to toxic allergic reaction. Yes, virtually every organ and every system studied in lab animals have been damaged from genetically modified foods. All cited, all clearly spelled out so that’s been my latest project giving that to policy makers around the world.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. Well you know how you talked about how you got started because you felt like there was nobody else talking about it. Is anybody talking about it today?
Jeffrey Smith: Oh yeah, all over the world. It’s a fiercely pitched battle.
Caryn Hartglass: You certainly don’t hear much about it in the United States.
Jeffrey Smith: It’s true. The mainstream media has been closed-lipped about it and the people that do talk about it tend to talk more about the environmental concerns about it or these trade concerns but there was very little discussion about the health dangers which is really the weakest point in the argument–there’s considerable health dangers. In fact, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine just reviewed the data and came to the conclusion that GMOs are causally linked to problems like accelerated aging and immune system problems and damaged organs and gastrointestinal problems and dysfunction of insulin regulation based on the animal feeding studies that have been done. There’s plenty of evidence and that we think will be the tipping point–when people learn how dangerous it is to eat the GMOs it will become a marketing liability for the companies that are using it and it will be drummed out of the market.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s the old thing that I talk about a lot that people vote with their dollars. If they support a product it will continue, if they don’t support a product it will go away.
Jeffrey Smith: In fact that’s what happened in Europe. In January of ’99 the biotech industry was projecting that within five years they would have taken over 95% of all the commercial feeds in the world but three weeks after this conference when they made that announcement, the gag order was lifted on one of the top scientists in the world working in the UK on GMO research. He was finally able to speak out the massive damage to rats that occurred when they were fed supposedly harmless genetically modified potatoes. It became a huge food safety scandal in Europe and ten weeks later, in a single week, virtually every major food company committed to stop using GM ingredients. That was the tipping point that happened in ten weeks from one food safety scandal related to GMOs. But it wasn’t reported in the US.
Caryn Hartglass: When was that?
Jeffrey Smith: That was in 1999.
Caryn Hartglass: OK, it’s been ten years and haven’t there been more pro genetically modified food regulations in Europe since that time?
Jeffrey Smith: The regulations have been pro GM because the EU commission, the European commission, and the European Food Safety Authority are basically jam packed with pro GM people. But that doesn’t make any difference because the people don’t want to eat it–there’s labeling requirements. So companies that committed ten years ago to stop using it maintain their commitment because they know if they use GMOs it would be like the skull and crossbones on their label.
Caryn Hartglass: Are you familiar with the book Mendel in the Kitchen?
Jeffrey Smith: I have heard of it. I’ve never read it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Well I read it and actually went to a talk by the author Nina Fedoroff who’s a plant biologist. It was a while ago, it came out about five years ago. Every page gave me a heart attack.
Jeffrey Smith: It’s not healthy, reading that book.
Caryn Hartglass: Starting from the beginning in the introduction I kept screaming out “This is wrong. This isn’t even correct.”
Jeffrey Smith: The amount of spin…let’s talk about blatant lies. This is both history and modern day stuff because the person who made this blatant lie is now in the Obama administration. Back in 1992 the FDA policy came out saying “the agency is not aware of any information showing that the foods created by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.” That was their basis, their foundation for saying the FDA requires no safety studies whatsoever if biotech companies like Monsanto want to introduce their products to the market they don’t even have to tell the FDA. Now that turned out to be complete deception. Forty-four thousand internal memos were made public from a lawsuit seven years later. Not only were they aware of differences, the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists was that genetically modified foods could create allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems and were inherently unsafe. They had urged their superiors to require long-term safety studies but the person in charge of policy at the FDA was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, later their vice president and now the food safety czar of the United States.
Caryn Hartglass: So has anything happened since all this information came out seven years later?
Jeffrey Smith: Well what happened was a friend of mine who forced a lawsuit…he had this big press conference in D.C. and these very top papers were there and one person came up to him and said “You know something, this should be front page news but it’s going to be buried.” And sure enough no one ran with it. No one was willing to say that the FDA had lied to the country, had put GMOs onto the market without safety testing that had been demanded by their own scientists and in fact the documents even show that the first genetically modified food—the FlavrSavr Tomato—documents show that when it was fed to rats the seven of twenty developed stomach lesions, 7 of 40 died within two weeks. The people at the FDA said it does not pass our normal tests for safety but the political appointees did not raise any objections.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s great. That gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling along with my stomach lesions.
Jeffrey Smith: Now since then we’ve had a lot more information about the health dangers. For example, in the area of both allergies and reproductive problems…let’s start with reproductive problems. Mice that have been fed genetically modified soy showed changes in the sperm cells; the embryos of offspring mice that were fed genetically modified soy had different functioning DNA; rats that were fed genetically modified soy had their testicles changed color; when female rats were fed GM soy more than half of their babies died within three weeks compared to only 10% death rate when the mothers were fed non-GM soy. Among livestock about two dozen farmers claimed that their pigs or cows became sterile from a variety of the genetically modified corn. Buffalo in India that are eating genetically modified cottonseed more than half of them have reproductive problems like abortions or premature deliveries or sterility or prolapsed uteruses. So we see it in the laboratory, we see it in the livestock and if you look at the records in the United States, we see an increase in infant mortality, sterility and infertility and low birth-weight babies. They also find that the babies that are born after the parents eat genetically modified crops–among animal studies, rats and mice—that they’re smaller. Also the government of Austria found the more genetically modified corn was fed to mice the less [12:52 correct to fewer?] babies the mother mice had. So there’s a lot of information suggesting the genetically modified crops interfere with fertility as well as infant health.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s back up. This is getting pretty scary. Can you just give a very basic definition of what genetically modified foods are? And why they’re doing what they’re doing?
Jeffrey Smith: Yes. Genes are taken from one species, like bacteria or viruses, and forced into the DNA of plants. There’s eight genetically modified food crops right now—soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini and crookneck squash. Those are the only eight food crops that are genetically engineered today on the shelf. The overwhelming reason why they genetically modified crops is so that they can drink poison and not die. So they sold with the poison, with the weed killer, you spray the field with Roundup ready soybeans…with Roundup herbicide and it kills all the other plant biodiversity but not the Roundup ready soybeans because they are herbicide-tolerant. The other trait is that they produce their own poison. They produce an insecticide which kills insects by splitting open their stomachs. And that counts for 99,9% of all the crops that are genetically engineered out there—either they drink poison or produce poison.
Caryn Hartglass: The argument would be—at least this is what came out of the book that I read, Mendel in the Kitchen—is that we’ve been modifying foods for thousands of years and nature does it as well. So how’s this different?
Jeffrey Smith: If you read the FDA documents the person who summarized everyone else’s comments said according to the technical experts at the agency, genetic modification is different from conventional breeding and leads to different risks. According to even the person who helped engineer the first genetically modified approved crop—the FlavrSavr Tomato—I was talking to her and she rolled her eyes and said it’s of course not just an extension of natural breeding. That’s a complete spin. With sexual reproduction the parents mate and they share genes, there’s a whole natural process. With genetic engineering you take genes from one species, like bacteria that can never naturally occur in the plant, you make some changes in the genetic code, you add a promoter which is an on switch—a virus, you add something else from another organism, you put millions of copies into a gene gun and shoot it into a plate of millions of cells, then you grow those cells through a process of cloning into a plant. None of it is natural. The process itself irrespective of what you’re planning to do with the plant, the process itself creates massive collateral damage in the DNA, causing hundreds or thousands of mutations. Natural genes can be deleted, permanently turned off, permanently turned on and hundreds or thousands can change their levels of expression in the natural functioning DNA. Two to 4 percent of the gene of the DNA is different in the genetically modified crop compared to its parent. Most of that in unpredicted changes that can create side effects. So that’s where we see things like higher levels of allergens, new allergens, higher levels of substances that were never intended to be increased which themselves may be linked to problems that we see all the time with genetically engineered crops because the technology itself is primitive and inherently dangerous.
Caryn Hartglass: So you mentioned allergens and in the show just before mine on this Network they were talking about the four biggest allergens in our diet today which are dairy, soy, corn and wheat. Do you have any idea how much genetically modified foods have impacted the allergy rate in these foods?
Jeffrey Smith: No one has done any post-marketing surveillance looking at specifically the impact of GMOs on the statistics of allergies in this country.
Caryn Hartglass: Of course not.
Jeffrey Smith: I can tell you, here’s some evidence that’s rather shocking: Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies sky rocketed by fifty percent. One small study showed that some people can have a skin prick reaction to the GM soy but not to the non-GM soy. There’s a known allergen in soy called trypsin inhibitor. In Monsanto’s own study in cooked GM soy had as much as seven times higher levels of that known allergen. The Roundup-ready protein which is designed to be produced inside crops, that has properties of a known allergen. They also found a completely new allergen which was never intended that is produced inside genetically modified soy. Also when they fed the soy to mice, the mice pancreas produced less digestive enzymes. If we end up having slower digestion because of that then we end up giving these proteins in our digestive system longer time to produce an allergic reaction. So eating GM soy might give you an allergic reaction to a wide variety of products. So it’s also possibly linked to the doubling of peanut-related allergies and also the corn, it’s made from genetically modified genes that produce their own toxin. That’s also been linked to allergies. The BT toxin which is created in these corn and cotton plants, that has a naturally allergic and toxic reaction in humans and animals and now thousands of people in India who pick the cotton are getting allergic reactions—rashes all over their bodies and animals that are eating the cotton plants after harvest are dying by the thousands.
Caryn Hartglass: Is corn one of the accepted genetically modified foods for humans?
Jeffrey Smith: Yes. About 85% of the corn crop last year or this year is genetically engineered. Not as high a percentage of corn on the cob but the corn used for cornmeal and corn syrup and of course animal seed.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. All the things that are kind of hidden in a lot of our other foods.
Jeffrey Smith: Exactly.
CS: And high fructose corn syrup, another favorite.
Jeffrey Smith: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: I understand some of the problem is even our organic foods are often contaminated because there isn’t any regulation to prevent that.
Jeffrey Smith: There is regulation to make it illegal to consciously start with genetically modified seeds or put in any genetically modified ingredient but it is difficult to tell the pollen from a genetically modified corn plant or canola plant—don’t go in this field because it’s organic. They don’t read the signs, you know? Once you put a genetically modified crop into the environment it cross pollinates and that damaged gene pool self-propagates and can outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. So we’re talking about a technology being deployed to the entire population through the food supply and for all future generations through a contaminated gene pool.
Caryn Hartglass: Have there been genetically modified organisms found in humans?
Jeffrey Smith: What happens is the only human feeding study ever conducted on genetically modified foods—there’s only been one that’s been published—shows that the genes that were inserted into genetically modified soy transferred into the DNA of the bacteria living inside our intestines and continue to function. That means long after we stop eating genetically engineered foods we may still have these dangerous genetically modified proteins produced inside us possibly for the rest of our lives. To put this in perspective, corn is genetically engineered to produce a toxic poison that kills insects called BT. If that gene transfers to our gut bacteria it could theoretically turn it into living pesticide factories, producing it over and over inside our guts. Likewise there’s antibiotic resistant marker genes in most GM foods that might create super diseases untreatable by antibiotics. The Hawaii papaya, zucchini and crook neck squash have viral genes which might produce viral proteins which could theoretically help disable our defenses against viral infections. There’s a promoter which turns genes on at high volume, 24/7 around the clock that does transfer into our gut bacteria DNA that might switch on some random gene inside the bacteria over producing some carcinogen randomly or some toxin or virus. We are in a situation where it’s really a genetic roulette. We’ve actually dismantled the normal barriers that don’t allow plant genes to populate the gut bacteria inside us. We may be colonizing the gut bacteria throughout North America. When I talk to doctor’s conferences about this, they invariably come up to me afterwards or raise the question from the floor saying, “We have seen a lot of gastrointestinal problems in our practice skyrocketing since about the time genetically modified foods were introduced.”
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. I’ve certainly heard a lot about it. This BT bacteria–I understand it’s a naturally-occurring bacteria so how is it different when it’s used in these GM crops?
Jeffrey Smith: Great question. BT is a bacteria from the soil. When they gather the bacteria by itself they put it in spray form and the organic farmers and forestry people spray it on plants and it kills insects. It gets washed off, it gets biodegraded within a couple of weeks and most of it within 48 hours. However, it is not completely benign. They used it by airplane to spray for gypsy moth infestation in the Pacific Northwest about 500 people complained of allergic reaction and flu-type symptoms. With the crops they actually make the BT toxin even stronger than the natural toxin. They genetically engineer it to be more toxic–the concentration levels of thousands of times that of the spray form. It even has properties of a known allergen. It doesn’t wash off. It doesn’t biodegrade. It stays inside the plant. Now when I mention that thousands of farm workers in India are getting allergic reactions from picking the BT cotton–they’re getting the exact same allergic reaction as reported by the 500 people in North America who were sprayed with BT. These people aren’t being sprayed. They are just touching the cotton, picking it from the plants, even loading it onto trucks.
Caryn Hartglass: There must be greater concentrations in the plants.
Jeffrey Smith: Yes, thousands of times.
Caryn Hartglass: Right…everyone always said more is better, bigger is better. And we know that that’s not true.
Jeffrey Smith: The Italian government just did a study citing that BT corn when fed to mice would provoked an immune response in the mice suggesting that it might be allergenic or immuno-stimulating in humans as well.
Caryn Hartglass: You said that in Europe most people aren’t buying the GM products and that they’re labeled.
Jeffrey Smith: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Here the products are not labeled, we don’t hear about it in the media so are these products thriving?
Jeffrey Smith: The thing is most processed foods use GM derivatives–the soy and corn derivatives in particular—you have soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin. If you go to our site healthiereating.org you can download a shopping guide. It explains how to avoid the GM ingredients, lists the brands that are non-GMO, it also lists all the derivatives or most of them from the genetically modified plants. So you can read the ingredients and realize, well yeah if it’s got lecithin in it it’s probably from soy, vitamin E is probably from soy and then it gives you an opportunity to avoid them by choosing the non-GM brands. So I would say if it’s a processed food or if it comes in a package it’s probably, 9 out of 10 times, has some type of, maybe even a small amount of genetically modified derivatives.
Caryn Hartglass: This is It’s All About Food. I’m speaking with Jeffrey Smith and he has a number of wonderful websites www.seedsofdeception.com, he’s the Executive Director for the Institute for Responsible Technology at www.responsibletechnology.org and you just mentioned another website, what is it?
Jeffrey Smith: Well, when I’m on the radio I usually just say healthiereating.org.
Caryn Hartglass: healthiereating.org
Jeffrey Smith: That brings people to the responsible technology site. Either one, depends on which one you can memorize.
Caryn Hartglass: So they all get you everywhere–healthiereating.org?
Jeffrey Smith: Correct.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. So let’s continue here. There’s a lot to talk about.
Jeffrey Smith: You know in addition to the problems we’ve seen with animals there’s also been widespread death. Among buffalo they’ve been eating genetically modified cottonseed cakes. Many have died both the older buffalo and the calves. Many animals when fed GM crops in the laboratory inexplicably passed on. Some of these research studies done by industry are meticulously designed to avoid finding problems. They dilute their products. They use the wrong control groups. And yet you end up with these sick and dead animals nonetheless which they just write off as saying not treatment related without any justification. In my most recent book Genetic Roulette I have a whole forty page part about how they rigged their research like with bovine growth hormone which is a genetically engineered drug injected into cows to increase milk supply. Documents stolen from the FDA and later leaked show that when researchers wanted to show that Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone did not interfere with the fertility of cows they allegedly added cows to the study secretly that were pregnant before they were ever injected, as an example.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly 8/13/2013
Caryn Hartglass: There is all this information and yet we continue to make these foods and most of the public eats them either knowingly or unknowingly and we’ve got all these health problems, is anything happening to change this?
Jeff Smith: Well, yes, in fact, we have a plan called, The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, designed to end the genetic engineering of the food supply, and it’s very simple. We talked about it at the beginning. We think that if as little as 5 percent of US shoppers consciously avoided brands that contain GM ingredients that would be sufficient to create a tipping point, forcing companies, like Kraft and all the major food companies, to remove GM ingredients. Because there is no consumer benefit from selling a genetically modified or eating a genetically modified food and so if Kraft realizes it’s lost millions of dollars and they see a trend, and they have already removed GM ingredients from their European brands and their Japanese brands and they see it happening in the United States, they’ll tell their supply chain, like Whole Foods did for their home brands, “No more GM ingredients.” And if we can rattle the cages loud enough, they will announce it loud enough. Like when I was in South Africa, a big article came out called, Cancer in Every Drop. Which was about rBGH (abbreviated for recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) and its link to cancer. That went all over South Africa and within a week all the major retail stores publically committed that they weren’t using rBGH and the South African Milk Process Association called on the government to ban it. So, if it is a high profile indictment of food safety then the transition happens very quick.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, I would love that to happen here.
Jeff Smith: What’s happening in the United States with rBGH, is that we don’t have high profile coverage about its links to cancer, we’ve had low profile coverage, but that’s still been good enough. In the last three years, 55 of the top 100 dairies have already committed to stop using it in some or all of their product line. Walmart won’t use it in their milk, I found out yesterday, Winn Dixie has taken it out, Kroger, Publix, Dannon, Yoplait, they’ve all committed to remove it.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, great.
Jeff Smith: And that’s because of the tipping point, it has spread from the natural food aisles to parents of young children, people realized the dangers of the drugged milk. I did an 18 minute documentary called, “Your Milk on Drugs, Just Say No,” which you can see at yourmilkondrugs.com for free. That describes how the research was rigged, it describes the health dangers, it describes Fox TV reporters were fired after they tried to blow the whistle on rBGH in a four-part news series. It talks about a lot of the underhanded tricks and the revolving door between Monsanto and the FDA. So, there is a lot of information about the dangers of these substances and yet the regulatory agencies and the coverage have been largely skewed by the multi-national corporations.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, one of the big plugs for genetically modified foods, the companies that produce it and the governments that are behind it, say that it is absolutely necessary to be able to feed the world, this ever growing population that we have to improve yields and the only way to do it is with genetically modified foods.
Jeff Smith: We might see that argument trumpeted by Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack who are visiting Kenya this week and will be visiting one of their agricultural research centers, which features some of the biotech researchers. It is a complete spin. It’s very, very dangerous lying, in fact GM crops work against feeding a hungry world for many reasons. The average genetically modified crop reduces yields. If you go to The Union of Concerned Scientists website, you can read the new report, Failure to Yield, which was a comprehensive evaluation, but it’s something that those of us who have been studying the situation for years, knew for a long time. There is a 5 to 10 percent reduction in yield for soy, there’s a reduction in yield for canola, there was only a 0.3 percent increase for corn because it can kill the corn borer per year. But that is far offset by the extra expense and the decrease in yield in others. If you look at the results of organic and sustainable methods in the developing world, you see a doubling of yield, a tripling of yield.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow
Jeff Smith: So, these are not getting the press that they need because corporations don’t receive money from farmers using age-old practices and from technologies that don’t require these expensive inputs. It’s the sexy new technology of genetic engineering, which is pulling money and attention away from the more appropriate technologies. So, GMOs reduce yield and they steal the money from the more appropriate technologies.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, another problem with GMOs is that it supports all the unsustainable agricultural processes that we have going on today. It supports monocropping and none of the more organic, sustainable processes, like rotation of crops and using pests and using certain other crops to work in harmony.
Jeff Smith: Exactly. I’ve traveled to 32 countries in the last six years and I am often hosted by these very progressive farms that have really developed sophisticated, alternative methods and ancient methods, both futuristic and ancient, which just like you say, have integrated pest management strategies, have crop diversity. I was at a farm, (Mountain of Shiva)[about 5 min], in India, this year and they don’t have to use any kind of pesticides because of the biodiversity there itself handles all of that. There is just magnificent ways out there, even just changing the pattern of planting rice can allow the rice to withstand, eliminate the pests because it brings sunlight to the roots. I mean there are so many ways that work and yet the biotechnology model is designed to promote one entity and that’s the profits to the biotechnology companies. If you think about the herbicide tolerant crops, they kill all of the other crops in the field and only allow that monoculture to survive. But throughout the developing world, they plant many types of crops in the field and they don’t call certain crops ‘weeds’ that’s part of their biodiversity. That’s part of their vitamin input. So by adopting the western model with genetic engineering, they actually eliminate some of the important nutrients in their diet as well as of course creating the run-off and soil depletion, etc. that we have seen in the United States.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, the weeds are pretty smart too, and they’re super weeds now that are becoming more resistant to the Round-Up ready herbicides.
Jeff Smith: Exactly. When you spray Round-Up over and over again on a population of plants, then a lot of the herbs become herbicide-tolerant and we see thousands of acres now, some that actually have been abandoned completely because of really horrible weeds like pigweed is un-killable with Round-Up. What happens is, farmers will then use more Round-Up or higher concentrations of Round-Up and Round-Up, herbicides, have gone up dramatically since GMOs were introduced. In the first nine years, there was about 138 million pound increase and the next two years there was 120 million pound increase estimate. So, you can see it is accelerating as much as 38 percent in a single year. Then farmers are say, well the Round-Up isn’t working, so why don’t I use more toxic herbicides, like 2,4-D, which is up 237 percent in two years. Now there is a company that wants to develop a seed that is resistant to 2, 4-D herbicide, so it will increase even more the use of these really horrible toxins. Now it turns out, Round-Up, which Monsanto touted as safe for years and years, there is now evidence of that could possibly create birth defects, cancer, and problems with newborns and all that has been out, but it’s largely suppressed and not quite getting out into the mainstream.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh goodness, so what do we do about all of this?
Jeff Smith: Well the animals give us a real good insight, it turns out when given a choice a whole variety of species avoid eating the genetically modified crops, including cows, pigs, geese, elk, deer, raccoons, squirrels, mice, rats, and buffalo. All have been shown, when given a choice, they will eat the non-GM compared to the GM when they are put in front of them. And so, I think what we need to do is first of all, learn more about it so we become motivated to take steps to protect ourselves and our families to stop eating dangerous, genetically modified foods. Again, go to healthiereating.org and download the shopping guide, order a bunch to give to your friends. You can also watch free videos online and listen to podcasts, etc., etc. Then I would say, get involved with educating your community. If you are a healthcare practitioner, join the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. Suggestion. They say a Doctor should prescribe a non-GM diet to all patients. We have patient education materials, we have a shopping guide as well as a health risk brochure that can be given out, it’s also free at natural food stores. You can download it from our website and bring it to your natural food store and ask them to carry these free shopping guides and health risk brochures. We have a GM-free School Campaign, with a 50 to 60 page manual. A video called, Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals, you can watch it online, and a whole program to involve the entire community to help protect children who are most at risk for potential dangers. We have programs for religious organizations, we have programs for the health conscious shopper, and we have programs for people who have magazines or retail stores. Basically, we packaged information enough now that’s compelling for people to change their diets. All we need are active individuals to bring this information out to their community. So whether you have a Listserv with lots of people, or a website, or a Facebook site, or whether you are just connected, we have the information so that no one has to become an expert at GMOs, we’ve already packaged that in books, dvds, cds, reports, brochures, etc.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, that’s really phenomenal and I will definitely check out those sites and material and do what I can to spread that information.
Jeff Smith: Great.
Caryn Hartglass: What about manure? I had some people on the other day, we were talking about even organic food uses manure from factory farms that has a lot of concentrated pesticides and all kinds of things in it that aren’t really healthy. Does the GMO food that the animals eat get into the manure?
Jeff Smith: Well, what happens is, there is certainly the possibility of the feed surviving digestion and ending up in the manure, but also you end up with compost. The compost can have other genetically modified crops in there as well. If the compost is not properly prepared in advance, before it is spread on the field, then un-harvested seeds can become volunteer crops, things like that. Even just buying topsoil can sometimes end up with seed, as happened with sugar beets recently. So, it’s important to know the source of your inputs and whether the compost has been properly cooked, naturally cooked when it’s done properly.
Caryn Hartglass: And how do we know that anyone knows the source and where it’s been and how it’s been treated?
Jeff Smith: You are buying part of the farm. Like I live in Iowa, so you can buy direct from the farmer, but it’s not the case if you live in New York City, farther away from the source. But it’s always good to ask and by more people asking, then people become sensitive to it, they then ask their supplier and people realize, “oh, it’s an issue.”
Caryn Hartglass: Right
Jeff Smith: If people don’t ask, people don’t realize it’s an issue. I went to a restaurant in my little town and I said, you know a bunch of us don’t want to eat genetically modified foods, can we take steps to take it out of any of your products, it was an Indian restaurant [about 12 min in/not sure what type of restaurant]. And he said, well come back and show me what is genetically engineered. So, we went back into the kitchen and I said, well you can’t use the vegetable oil because that is soybean oil and your dairy products are conventional, why don’t you switch to the organic dairy in town, and everything else you cook from scratch, so it’s all actually non-GMO. He made those changes and I wrote about them in the local paper and his foot traffic increased.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow
Jeff Smith: And then, half-a-dozen other restaurants in town competed to also become non-GMO because they saw what was happening with him. And he never asked about the health dangers, never asked why. I just told him we would prefer it and he asked for my help and I helped him. And so it turns out it’s really easy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I love that story.
Jeff Smith: A lot of chefs, by the way, are championing this cause. A lot of chefs are against GMOs and they have a lot of power.
Caryn Hartglass: What about rice? I’ve read stories about genetically modified rice. Where is that in the food chain?
Jeff Smith: Well, they have not commercialized rice, fortunately. Virtually every major grain and food crop has been genetically engineered in the laboratory. There has been over 50 thousand field trials in the United States, between one and two hundred species and rice was one of those species. Back in 2001 was the last field trial with this particular type of rice and then in 2006, the Secretary of Agriculture announced that field trialed rice had escaped the field trial and had contaminated the long grain US rice supply in the South and within two days rice futures, on the Chicago Board of Exchange, dropped $150 million in value, it’s an estimated cost of now of about $1.2 billion from this contamination. Now the contamination is very small amounts of rice, it’s a tiny amount, but it shows that even the field trial rice, it was never officially approved, it could be quite dangerous, escaped its field trial and contaminated the gene pool of human food supply of rice. So, it’s an example of what’s probably already happening with other crops but we don’t know about it because no one has tested it. It had been contaminated for five years before they found it, and it was kind of a fluke that it was discovered.
Caryn Hartglass: They’re not doing tests in China?
Jeff Smith: In fact with rice, what happened was, a guy was promoting the growing of genetically modified rice and then evidently was consciously diverted into the food supply illegally and it was found in rice products in Europe and in Hong Kong. It was never supposed to be commercialized but it did end up in the food supply. I don’t believe it was a large amount, but again, here is an example where it was never supposed to but one guy had the idea of pushing it forward. Like when the genetically modified papaya was being grown in field trials in Hawaii, farmers actually stole it out of the field trial and started planting it because it resisted a disease but it also of course might be dangerous and might cause the problems of humans resisting diseases, but these were not considered when the papaya was eventually approved.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, it’s just dumbfounding to know what we put a lot of great minds to do in science and what they create.
Jeff Smith: Some people say that people have to drop like flies in order for us to reevaluate GMOs but it turns out that in the 1980s people did drop like flies, there was an epidemic that killed about one-hundred Americans and caused about five-thousand to ten-thousand people to fall sick or become permanently disabled. It was tracked to a genetically modified food supplement called L-Tryptophan, where they genetically modified the bacteria to produce the Tryptophan and that almost certainly created the deadly contaminants. It took four years to discover that an epidemic was actually taking place, it was almost missed, the only reason they discovered it was because the disease had characteristics that actually shouted out to be discovered. But the FDA withheld the information from the public and even from Congress about the genetic engineering origins of the Tryptophan. And instead, it took all Tryptophan off the market not just the only brand that was genetically engineered that caused the problem. But it demonstrates that it really required a huge amounts of problems, severe, acute symptoms that were completely rare, that no one had seen before and it came on quickly in order to track it and track the L-Tryptophan as the cause. Now we don’t have any tracking mechanism for the GM foods on the market so we don’t know for example, if it is related to the doubling of food related illnesses between 1994 and 2001, or the near doubling of multiple chronic illnesses in the first nine years since GMOs were introduced, or the doubling of allergy related visits to the Emergency Room in the five years after GMOs were introduced, or the doubling of peanut allergies in the United States after GMOs were introduced. These are examples of some of the things that sky-rocketed in our civilization, in our Country, and yet there has been no systematic evaluation to see if GMOs are the cause. I spoke to a top scientist in India, one of the top biologists in the world, Dr. Pushpa Bhargava, and he said he had studied six-hundred journals and came to the conclusion that the major reason why we are seeing an increase in some of these diseases in the United States is the introduction of genetically modified foods in our diet. And that could include autism, allergies, obesity, diabetes, any of these things because GMOs have such a wide variety of potential problems.
Caryn Hartglass: Is it true that most of the GM crops today are food that’s grown for animals?
Jeff Smith: Well, yeah, most of the soy is fed to animals, most of the corn is fed to animals. Cotton seed goes to animals. Canola meal goes to animals. But they also all go to human beings. All four of those are used in vegetable oil. You know the sugar beets, the pulp of sugar beets is fed to animals, but the sugar is fed to humans. And so, it’s a combination. The largest percentage goes to animals. Now the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, back in 1992, had written up that if there’s toxins in the GM crops, that are special, like they pulled it from the environment, or they have some toxins that result from the genetic engineering process, they might bio-accumulate in the milk and meat of the animals. So they wanted toxicological studies to make sure that the milk and meat were not dangerous when the animals were fed GMOs. But they did not get anything of the sort, in fact there’s not but a single published study, looking at milk and meat from GM fed animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Isn’t that part of the problem, the cumulative effect? If there have been any studies done, they’re very short term.
Jeff Smith: Yeah, very short term, I mean like 90 days. It’s amazing, I’ll give you some examples. They’ll take a protein that is designed to be produced by the inserted gene, they won’t even take that protein from the crop, they will manufacture it in genetically modified E. coli bacteria because it’s cheaper, then they’ll concentrate it and give a single dose to a group of mice. They will watch those mice for maybe up to 28 days to see if any die or have serious, visible symptoms. They figure if the mice survive it’s okay to feed genetically modified foods, every day, to a population of humans for the rest of their lives. (Jeff and Caryn laugh) I mean it is on that level, it is truly on that level. For feeding, there are many genetically modified crops that have never been tested in animal feeding safety studies, and those that have been fed the safety studies usually the maximum feeding trial is 90 days. And often times, it’s at a lower percentage of the diet than is used in the human diet. Like in the corn, that’s eaten in Africa, it’s a staple, it’s a huge percentage of their diet, maybe 70 percent of the caloric intake is from corn and if someone is in a famine-aide then maybe 90 percent. And yet, they may feed one third of the diet or one tenth of corn to some rats and if they find problems, and they often do, they just explain them away or they hide them. So, for example, Green Peace sued Monsanto forcing them to divulge a scientific study on their genetically modified corn, the Bt corn that produces its own pesticide and it turns out, when it was analyzed independently, there were signs of toxicity, of poisoning, in these rats that were fed GM for 90 days. They had signs of possible diseases, infections, high blood pressure, anemia, allergies, all sorts of problems, higher blood sugar, but it was all explained away and ignored by Monsanto in their study and accepted by the regulators in Europe, without any question. So it turns out,
Caryn Hartglass: How did they explain it away?
Jeff Smith: Well, I analyzed that. What I do is put out details explaining this very interesting, meticulous way that they do it so that everyone could understand how, like when they compared one group to another, they said, “Oh, well it was statistically insignificant so we decided to look at other groups that were never tested in this study, but were tested in some other study, in some other laboratory and used them as control.” Now this is never done in normal studies but they did it because they wanted to say “it wasn’t outside the normal range of variance.” Or they say, “Well, it only affected the males this way but not the females so it probably wasn’t dose related.” As if males and females always have to react the same way, when instead what it shows is there is a hormone-like relationship with the GMOs, rather than provoking alarm, they just covered it up and said, since there was difference in the gender, there was no relationship to the actual corn. Or they say, this one group had a really severe reaction, but they were fed 11 percent of the corn but the group that was fed 33 percent of the corn, didn’t have as severe reaction, so it wasn’t dose related, so we can ignore that. You know, little technical things that they do that make no sense scientifically, they have no precedent in the scientific literature until these guys got ahold of the science then they created their own science in order to explain it away. And their own people are in the approval processes around the world. I traveled all these countries and they have Monsanto’s people in the approval positions in Brazil, India, in Europe, in Canada. And in the United States, the FDA doesn’t even require any safety studies they just have a voluntary meaningless exercise, in which they write a letter at the end of the exercise saying, you believe your foods are safe, so we don’t have to think about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s mindboggling to me, most of these people are parents, have children, and eat this food themselves, feed it to their children, and they do know what it will do.
Jeff Smith: Not always, you see I talked to someone, a former Monsanto’s scientist. He said three of his colleagues tested the rBGH, Bovine Growth Hormone, found high levels of IGF-1 (abbreviated for insulin-like growth factor) in the milk, which is linked to cancer. They stopped drinking milk unless it was organic.
Caryn Hartglass: Isn’t it true that Monsanto has organic food in their cafeteria?
Jeff Smith: Not organic, what happened was someone contacted the headquarters in England and said, do you serve genetically modified foods? And the head of the canteen said, because of concerns raised by our consumers, we’ve removed as far as possible all remaining genetically modified soy and corn from our food. And this was the restaurant that served Monsanto’s employees in England.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s incredible. Now there was something I think you wrote in your book, Seeds of Deception, I remembering, where you said the FDA sort of speaks out of two corners their mouth when they talk about genetically modified foods. On one hand, they say they are the same as our conventional foods and so they don’t need to be tested. And then out of the other corner of their mouth they say that they have superior properties, increased nutrition, improved yields with the plants.
Jeff Smith: Well, what happens is the United States government is designed to promote GMOs. They have mandates that actually have budgets, hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars to promote GMOs. You have the patent office, which says GMOs are unique and deserve a patent. And you have the FDA, which says they are substantially equivalent, no difference, they don’t have to be tested. And then you have like the USDA report in 2006 saying, there is actually a decrease in yield or there is no difference. There is a decrease in farmer income or there is no difference. And then you have the State Department pushing it on Africa, saying take it because it could increase yield and increase farmer income. So, the entire government is two-faced, the entire government is based on these lies as we probably will see this week by Secretary Clinton and Secretary Vilsack visiting Kenya. They are probably going to say, it’s important to use these new technologies to feed the world and yet if they read the Union of Concerned Scientist Report recently, they will realize that GMOs have a failure to yield, they do not actually increase yield what so ever.
Caryn Hartglass: So you haven’t seen a change in the government with the Obama Administration?
Jeff Smith: It’s slightly worse.
Caryn Hartglass: Slightly worse?
Jeff Smith: Because they’re more vocal in promoting this to developing countries, at least that’s the plan by Vilsack. The person who was supposed to be the top candidate for Food Safety in the USDA, Dennis Wolff, he is the Secretary of Agriculture for Pennsylvania, he is Monsanto’s man in Pennsylvania. He is the one that declared unilaterally that it should be illegal to label milk products “Free from Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone,” which would have made it impossible for any national brands to put that label on their packaging because it would have been sold in Pennsylvania and taken off the shelf. The huge uprising of consumers forced the governor’s hand to stop this crazy decision and we’re told from rumors that the governor was so upset with Dennis Wolff, his Secretary of Agriculture that he is actually trying to push him upstairs into the position of the top food safety person of the USDA to get him off his hands.
Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) That’s what they do with incompetence, push them up, right?
Jeff Smith: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway Jeff, it’s been great talking with you today, so much wonderful information about a really frightening topic, but I think the bottom line is once again that it’s all up to us as individuals to make a change and make a difference by not supporting these products, by letting more people know about it, by letting our government leaders know about it, but certainly speak with your dollar and your website healthiereating.org has a lot of great information. Just keep at it, stay strong. Thank you so much.
Jeff Smith: Thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: So next week we’re going to have another wonderful guest, I have Patti Breitman coming on and she is the co-author of How to Eat Like a Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to Be One and also the author of How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty. I’m looking forward to that. I’m Caryn Hartglass and this has been It’s All About Food. Thanks for listening.
Transcribed by Kimberly Gutierrez 8/20/2014