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Jeffrey M. Smith is the head of the Institute for Responsible Technology. An internationally acclaimed filmmaker and author, his first book, Seeds of Deception, made him the world’s foremost consumer advocate for non-GMO choices.
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Pathways: Welcome and thank you for talking with Pathways readers and the Pathways Connect community.
Smith: Thank you for having me. It is so good to speak to parents because so many people are not as concerned about what they put in their mouths until they have kids. And kids are most at risk to the potential dangers of genetically modi- fied food, so I am thrilled to be talking to families.
Pathways: Can you explain to our readers the difference between what our grandparents did, with cross-breeding plants and animals on the farm to create stronger variet- ies, and today’s genetically engineered organisms?
Smith: For centuries, we have been crossing plants and animals through natural sexual reproduction. Plants and animals in the same species carry traits from the parents to create new offspring. But in genetic engineering they can take single genes or combinations of genes from anywhere in the plant or animal kingdom, so we have insects or viruses being inserted into plants. Now, not only is this carrying genes that would never naturally be in there, so it creates new things in our food supply—it is creating new combinations that are not tested—but also the very process of genetic engineering causes massive collateral damage throughout the plant’s DNA. The natu- ral functioning DNA is different after it is genetically modified. This includes hundreds of thousands of mutations and changes in the way the natural genes function.
This is a very primitive technology, and a very side-effect prone technology. It is something that has never been done be- fore in nature, and yet the products are being pushed onto our plates without any regard for the serious health consequences. And we’re already seeing serious health consequences in the animals and humans that are eating these foods.
Pathways: On your website—ResponsibleTechnology.org—you have a list of some of the more interesting combinations. A few of them are:
Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
Jellyfish genes lit up pigs’ noses in the dark.
Arctic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.
Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.
Smith: These are some of my favorites. Eventually, they will try to take out the mothering gene from livestock so they won’t feel sad when they remove their children from them. It’s a mad scientist field going on right now.
Pathways: So the term “Frankenfood” is well earned. It is not an ex- aggeration, but an appropriate description. Why would anyone want to create corn that can produce spermicide?
Smith: They are turning plants into factories. They figure if they can insert a gene into a plant to create something they are looking for, the plant can become the factory. In theory it sounds economical, but imagine if that corn cross-pollinated. I have talked to farmers in the Midwest who have noticed that their cows and pigs were becoming sterile, and some were convinced it was the spermicidal corn that got mixed up. The idea of putting drug-making plants outdoors where they can be cross-pollinated, or moved by animals or accidentally mixed up, is one of the less intelligent aspects of this technology—which is already suffering from brain-cell deficiency.
Pathways: So, this is not a product that was or is being developed for the benefit of our children, or with their wellness in mind. From the beginning, GMO products were the result of a business plan, straight up, and you point that out in the introduction to your book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically-Engineered Foods You Are Eating. In your book, you talk about how Monsanto paid the consulting company Arthur Anderson to come up with a plan to help them corner the market on the world’s food supply. This plan led to Monsanto purchasing and patenting traditional seed and seed companies, engineering suicide and GMO seeds, and then not labeling these products in supermar- kets so we don’t even know we’re eating them.
Smith:: You are absolutely right about this being a plan to help Monsanto fulfill their goal of converting 100 percent of the seeds in the world to become genetically engineered and patented. One of their biggest assets has been the control over the U.S. govern- ment decision mechanism. In 1999, when documents were made public through a lawsuit, what became clear was the overwhelm- ing consensus of scientists who helped to create GMOs; they were warning the industry in 1991 of their dangers, which are allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems.
But those documents also revealed that the U.S. FDA was under orders from the White House to promote biotechnology. So their response was to create a position—a person who would be in charge of GMO policy. They gave that position to Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney and vice president, who is now the U.S. food-safety czar. When he was in charge, he ignored the scientists and allowed the foods on the market. Now, years later, their concerns have been vindicated: The American Academy of Environmental Medicine says that everyone should avoid GMOs, that every doctor should prescribe non-GMO diets, and that they are actually linked to things like reproductive problems and im- mune system problems, accelerated aging, gastrointestinal prob- lems, organ damage, etc. So, this business plan was a hijacking of our regulatory agencies.