Jeffrey Smith interviews on GM health risks
2.Jeffrey Smith in Hawaii
3.Jeffrey Smith interview on GM health effects
NOTE: As Monsanto seem to be giving Jeffrey Smith a bit of attention at the mo, we thought we should too :)
And here's a relevant quote from Monsanto: "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible." - Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications, quoted in New York Times Magazine, 25 October 1998
1.GMO health risks - mostly, we just don't know
Nutrition Examiner, February 12 2009
Most people don't think it's all the same. Since 1996, Americans have been eating genetically modified (GM) foods, mostly soy and corn, and mostly in processed foods like corn chips and frozen dinners.
This week I heard author Jeffrey Smith talk about the health risks of genetically modified organism (GMO) in the food supply, and the testing (or lack thereof) of these foods. It's a scary situation and to me, the lack of testing of GMO foods is a larger public health and food safety issue than the problems around oversight and prevention of food borne illness that have resulted in the recent peanut butter fiasco.
I'm not against genetic engineering or even genetically engineered foods. What I am against is the release of entirely and radically new foods never encountered by the human body and with no real human testing, into the food supply.
The FDA, back in 1992 (when the effort was lead by a former Monsanto attorney who would later become Monsanto's VP), made a determination that there was no information showing that GM foods were different from naturally-occurring foods, so therefore were safe to eat. No testing, no review. And nothing has changed since then as far as regulation. Agrochemical companies that created GMO foods were given patents to those foods despite the FDA declaration that they were not significantly different from naturally-occuring foods.
Does this sound like having it both ways? No regulation because the foods are the same yet patents because the foods are new?
Jeffrey M. Smith takes a stand against genetically modified organisms
Honolulu Weekly, Feb 18 2009
Jeffrey M. Smith / In the past 20 years, Hawai‘i has hosted more than 4,500 open-field tests for experimental genetically engineered plants””more than any place in the world. Currently, 169 such tests are under way on corn, sorghum, soybeans, canola and rice. Some of Hawai‘i’s outdoor trials have involved biopharmaceuticals””plants that are genetically engineered to produce medical supplies, drugs, vaccines and industrial chemicals. The Islands also grow seed for mainland farmers from transgenic crops that are engineered to produce their own insecticides or resist herbicides. So far, the government has approved transgenic varieties of soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, zucchini, crookneck squash and papaya, which means that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are widely present in our food supply.
That’s where Jeffrey M. Smith comes in. He’s the founder and director of The Institute for Responsible Technology, and the author of Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating. He’s now in Hawai‘i promoting his new book, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, and the Institute’s Campaign for Healthier Eating in America.
Why have you devoted your life to this issue? What’s your primary concern here?
Hopefully, it won’t be my whole life. Hopefully we’ll end the dangers of genetically engineered food quickly so we can move on to something else. But what I learned in 1996, just before they introduced genetically engineered foods widely into the environment, was they were doing something with a completely infant science with a primitive technology based largely on unproven or disproved assumptions and they’re going to deploy this technology into the entire food supply and release it into the environment, where we had no way to recall it. I was appalled. GMOs expose the public in a way that no other technology has, in food fed to a billion people. My background is as a communicator and educator. I figured, we need to start getting this information out to people.
The GMO issue is multifaceted. We’ve got multinational corporations trying to control the world’s seed supply. Britain’s Daily Mail reported an estimated 125,000 farmers in India have committed suicide because they were financially ruined by their foray into transgenic cotton. Then we’ve got the environmental issues, like unintentional cross pollination with cultivated and wild plants, as well as an increased use of herbicides, pesticides, water and fertilizers associated with these crops.
With all these hot topics to choose from, why did you decide to focus on food and health concerns?
It was strategic, actually. I was aware of what happened in Europe in 1999. In January of ’99, the biotech industry was still projecting a 95 percent take over of all commercial seeds in the world within five years. They were expecting to basically replace nature. But three weeks after they made their prediction, there was a high profile food scandal related to GMOs that erupted in Europe, and suddenly everyone was buzzing about the potential health dangers. That created a tipping point of consumer rejection. Using GM ingredients became a marketing liability in Europe, and within a single week in ’99, virtually every major food company committed to stop using GMOs.
What are some of the most worrisome health effects?
There are many, but let’s start with one. There’s been just one known human feeding study, and it showed that herbicide-resistant Round-Up Ready genes survived digestion and were present in gut bacteria. We may have compromised our gut bacteria in America and that is not trivial. It’s an important part of our immune system. There’s also the potential for allergens. Studies done on rats show intestinal damage, anemia, depressed immune response, low birth weight, increased infant mortality, organ damage, toxicity and more. Very few animal studies have been done, and they were not long-term feeding studies. Laborers working in fields of cotton reported rashes, asthma, itching, skin eruptions.
Your institute is conducting the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, which is aimed at creating a tipping point here, similar to what happened in Europe. Tell us more about it.
If companies believe they are losing market share and they sense it is a trend, they will change. Just 5.6 million people could change it. We are in a situation where it should be very easy to reach the tipping point. We’re already seeing it happen with rGBH, the bovine growth hormone. Starting about three years ago, consumers said they didn’t want to eat anything from cows injected with rBGH. So one by one, companies have been jettisoning it, including Wal-Mart, Safeway, Starbucks and now Dannon. We’re going to nail the coffin shut on that one. And this was done because people were educated about the health risks. GMOs are successful in the United States only because of consumer ignorance.
If you’re effective in killing the market for transgenics in America, will that serve to increase pressure on developing nations to buy these crops and seeds? The corporations behind them have invested more than $220 billion in this technology. Can we expect they’ll just roll over and give up if they lose the American market?
No, we can’t expect them to roll over. But ending the demand for GMOs in the U.S. will reduce the pressure on developing nations in two ways: A lot export into Europe and they don’t grow GM because their customers won’t buy it. If GMOs are rejected by Americans, it would double their reason for not growing it. Another reason GMOs have survived is because of bullying by the U.S. government. We fund the State Department to push GMOs into African nations.
And if the industry isn’t stopped?
They have over 100 products waiting in the wings, and that includes virtually every fruit, vegetable and grain you might want to eat. And the “terminator technology,” which prevents a plant from making seeds, has not yet been deployed.
Much of the transgenic crop is used in animal feed. Are eggs and meat from these animals tainted?
No studies have been done on the effects of eating animals that have eaten genetically engineered grain. In our campaign to get President Obama to make good on his promise to label GMO products in the U.S., we are trying to close the loophole in Europe’s labeling law, which does not require labeling of animals fed GMO feed.
How can people avoid eating genetically engineered foods?
Junk food is going to be GMO foods. In restaurants, ask what kind of oil they use, as GMOs are often hidden there. Blue corn, red corn and popcorn are not GMO. In the store, you can buy organics, products that are labeled non-GMO and the items in our shopping guide, which can be downloaded for free at www.responsibletechnology.org.
3.Putting the Dangers of Frankenstein Foods On The Table
Nitin Jugran Bahuguna
Womens Feature Service, March 10 2009
[Womens Feature Service covers developmental, political, social and economic issues in India and around the globe]
Jeffrey M. Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology, USA, has authored the internationally renowned book, 'Genetic Roulette - The Documented Health Risks Of Genetically Engineered Foods', which illustrates how the world's most powerful biotech companies mislead critics and put the health of societies at risk. In an interview, Prof. Smith, who has spearheaded a revolutionary industry and consumer movement to remove GMOs from the US food supply, talks about the dangers that Indian farmers and consumers face from genetically engineered crops and genetically modified foods.
Q: Do tell us about your campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
A: The campaign for Healthier Eating in America, coordinated by the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), is one of the only viable strategies to remove GMOs from the food supply. There are several serious, even catastrophic, dangers of GMOs. Genetically modified crops concentrate on the corporate control of food and increased herbicide use without increasing average yields. They endanger food security, are detrimental to sustainable and organic farming, and trap farmers in a cycle of debt and dependence. But the single greatest motivator for action is the health risk to consumers. Our campaign targets four demographic groups that are receptive to dietary changes - health-conscious consumers, parents and schools, faith-based groups, and healthcare professionals and their patients. Within each group, the women, who generally do the shopping for the family, are clearly the most receptive and responsive gender. Thus, the tipping point is largely in their hands.
Q. Given the fact that awareness levels in the developed countries are higher, how effective has public opinion in the West been in trying to contain the export of genetically modified (GM) foods by multinational companies (MNCs)?
A: The most effective containment of exports has come from consumers in Europe and Japan, whose knowledge of the dangers of GMOs has translated into avoidance of GM products. The subsequent rejection of GM ingredients by food companies there has limited US exports of GM crops and derivatives. This has been facilitated by mandatory labeling of GMOs, particularly in the European Union, which would alert consumers to GM content, and, therefore, keep companies on track with their non-GMO commitments.
Q: What are the health risks posed by genetically engineered (GE) foods?
A: GMOs are linked to toxic and allergic reactions in people, the deaths of thousands of sick, sterile livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50 per cent in the UK soon after GM soy was introduced. A human subject showed a skin prick allergic-type reaction to GM soy, but not to natural soy. In the 1980s, a contaminated brand of food supplement called L-tryptophan killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness and disability in another 5,000 to 10,000 people. The source of contaminants was almost certainly the genetic engineering process used in its production. The disease took years to find and was almost overlooked. It was only identified because the symptoms were unique, acute, and fast-acting. If all three characteristics were not in place, the deadly supplement might never have been identified or removed. If GM foods on the market are causing common diseases or if their effects appear only after long-term exposure, we may not be able to identify the source of the problem for decades, if at all.
Q: Has there been a perceptible impact of GE crops on India's farming community?
A: Hundreds or thousands of Indian farm workers who pick Bt cotton by hand are developing allergic-type reactions. The cotton is engineered with a gene from a soil bacterium called Bt (bacillus thuringiensis), which produces a natural insecticide. The reason it is in our crops is that the industry and government say the Bt toxin is completely safe for humans. In its natural state, it's used in organic agriculture and forestry. They, therefore, claim that Bt toxin has a history of safe use, and doesn't even interact with mammals; that it's destroyed in the digestive tract.
But this assumption ignores the evidence. About 500 people in the US and Canada developed allergic-type reactions when they were sprayed with natural Bt discharged from airplanes. When they fed natural Bt to mice, the mice developed a powerful immune response and damaged intestines. But the Bt engineered into crops is thousands of times more concentrated than the natural form and is designed to be more toxic. When I reviewed the symptoms from the Indian cotton workers, they turned out to be the same symptoms that were described by the 500 people in North America who were sprayed with Bt. The Indian Bt cotton farmers allow sheep to graze on the cotton plants after harvest. According to several shepherds, within five to seven days, one out of every four sheep dies. Thousands of sheep have died in the Andhra Pradesh region, and more will be added to those numbers the next year. There are also widespread reports of disease and death among buffalo, who either grazed on the Bt cotton plants or consumed Bt cottonseed or oil cakes.
When I visited Andhra Pradesh, I spoke to a group of women and asked if any of them experienced any reaction to BT cotton crop. After some hesitation, two women stood up and one of them revealed that she suffered from itching. I was also told that women cotton workers are embarrassed to discuss the details of their symptoms, so they don't come forward.
Q. A chapter in your book says that the risks posed by GE crops/GM foods are greater for women and children.
A: Pregnant women should most definitely avoid GMOs. A Russian study found that more than half of the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, compared to only a 10 per cent death rate for babies whose mothers ate non-GM soy. The offspring from the GM group were also smaller and could not conceive.
Q. In your opinion, does India really require GM foods?
A: The US spends three to five billion dollars per year to subsidise the GM crops that no one else wants. They are trying to force other countries to take GMOs to solve their own problems. The US department of Agriculture confirms that GMOs do not increase yields or farmer income, and in many cases reduce both. In developing countries, GM crops are clearly disadvantageous. A study by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded that GMOs are not appropriate, and that industrial farming practices in general force small farmers and landless peasants off the land. Analysis of Bt cotton in India consistently reveals that it provides far less income compared to farmers growing organic or NPM (non-pesticidal management) cotton. But these more appropriate and healthy systems don't have corporate champions to promote them.
Q. What would be the best strategy to regulate the introduction of GM food?
A: The best regulation would be to demand a ban of current GM crops and all outdoor field trials. Then India can invest in proper independent studies, which I am sure will confirm our conclusions that the current generation of GM crops is unsafe for humans, animals, and the environment.