At a recent Acres USA conference I was particularly impressed with a keynote presentation by international bestselling author, Jeffrey Smith. His integrity shone through and his research was exceptional. He agreed to the following interview and we spent a fascinating afternoon together.
Jeffrey is the world’s foremost expert on the dangers of GM food. He has consulted with world leaders on this issue and has been often quoted in leading media outlets including the New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine. His latest book, Genetic Roulette – The Documented Health Risks Of Genetically Modified Food, contains information that former UK Environmental Minister, Michael Meacher, suggests “may change the global course of events this century”. I hope that this interview may inspire you to take a stand on an issue involving the widespread contamination of something as sacred as the food that sustains us.
Graeme: Thanks for meeting with me. I enjoyed your book, Seeds of Deception, and felt your research and insight into the GMO story would be valuable to share with the Australian public and agricultural sector. The transnationals seem to succeed in pushing their agenda regardless of the will of the people. Even our own research organisation, the CSIRO, has bought into biotech, using taxpayer’s money without any indication that we were comfortable with this direction. It appears they have squandered millions on a GMO pea that has had to be abandoned due to negative effects upon lab rats. It was a little reminiscent of the Arpad Pusztai story in the UK, where the prematurity of the push into food crops was revealed. He was a confirmed believer in the potential of GMO to the extent that he admitted to me that there was almost an element of a God complex involved, in that science could now manipulate the blueprint. He was shocked at his findings and became a whistleblower who paid the price. You have had significant dealings with Arpad. Perhaps you could share the inside story.
Jeffrey: Yes certainly. Arpad was the subject of one of the chapters in my first book. Arpad was an esteemed researcher at the Rowett Institute in the UK. He had created a protocol for testing the safety of GM foods which involved three different institutes and a 20-member research team that included his wife. He had a budget of 1.6 million pounds to check out the potato in question and they completely expected it to be harmless.
Graeme: Was the potato already on the market?
Jeffrey: No it was not, but the Rowett Institute had already signed contracts related to the percentage of sales for which they would qualify. Arpad was a world expert on lectins and it was the DNA lectin from the snowdrop plant that had been built into the potato as an insecticide. He had administered the snowdrop lectin to rats at up to 800 times the rate that would theoretically come from the potatoes and there had been no negative effect. He was looking for something that would be harmless to mammals and after six and a half years they really thought that the snowdrop plant was the answer.
He conducted the study only on the bequest of his wife, who was in charge of the research team, as he never ever anticipated any problems. He was horrified to find that every system in the rats was affected by the GM potatoes. There was reduced organ growth rate for brains, livers and testicles and proliferative cell growth throughout the digestive system. There was increased size in the pancreas and partial atrophy of the liver, and the immune system was seriously compromised.
Initially, Arpad was permitted to comment upon this unpublished research on television and for a few days he was a hero of the institute, as there was expectation of international recognition for the Institute on the basis of the findings. However, there was enormous press coverage and it was raising all sorts of questions about the safety of genetically engineered food.
At that point it was reported that there was a phone call from Tony Blair’s office directly to the institute and one source reports phone calls from Monsanto to President Clinton’s office and to Tony Blair. Monsanto then contended that a different lectin had been used in the research to try to confuse the issue and this is a common strategy that has worked for them in the past.
Misinformation invariably serves as a distraction. The institute Director initially issued a press release that included this misinformation, largely based on his lack of understanding about the project. Arpad’s wife submitted a two-page letter of clarification and they expected to arrive at work the following week with everything sorted. However, this was not to be the case.
Upon arrival he was called into a meeting with all of the brass, where he was told that they were not going to renew his contract, that they were going to audit his work and find it was flawed and he was issued a letter saying that if he spoke out about it they would sue him for any financial damages associated with the scandal. They took away his data, disbanded the research team and he even had his house burgled and data stolen. His office at the institute was also burgled.
There was a set of statements issued claiming Arpad had made a mistake, that his research was shoddy and the wrong materials had been used. Arpad was unable to respond. He was an extremely conservative scientist and aside from the threats of reprisals he was not prepared to say anything when he no longer had access to supporting data. There was a massive, concerted effort to discredit him that even involved the Royal Society who mounted a review for the first time in their 350-year history.
Graeme: I guess the promise of biotech billions represented a gravy train that vested interests did not want to see derailed?
Jeffrey: You got it! The hatchet job on Arpad was unrelenting. The pro GM government ministers bought into the spin and there were a group of pro GM scientists lined up to further discredit Arpad. I know Arpad really well and he has turned out to be one of the greatest assets to the world in relation to exposing the truth about GMs.
Graeme: Perhaps that was his destiny. There is very little that happens by accident.
Jeffrey: That may be so. He is still commissioned to write reports about published, GM research. He was commissioned by the German Government recently to review one of Monsanto’s studies. He can tear apart a study with a level of expertise that very few humans have. He can point out how the industry is rigging studies so that problems won’t be identified.
Graeme: I met him a couple of years ago when we were both presenting at a large organic conference in India. He pointed out that he had never secured another position within the industry, as promised. I didn’t realise that he was still contributing on this level. It’s great to hear that they were not successful, that he continues to throw spanners into their dirty works. Moving on with my questions, can you tell me a little about your current book?
Jeffrey: Yes, certainly. This one is all about research into the health risks associated with consumption of genetically engineered foods. Over 20 scientists have contributed to this book and I’m afraid that the indisputable evidence is overwhelming. It is bullet proof and indefensible. Part one identifies the issues, Part 2 of the book describes the incompetency of the regulatory agencies to evaluate and identify the risks. Part 3 describes how the biotech industry actually rigs their studies to avoid finding problems. How they over cook samples, dilute their crops, use faulty controls, use too much protein in the feed etc. All of these things are very specifically designed to minimise any potential impact of the GM crop on an animal during a feeding study or to show up any significant difference in a comparison of nutrients or toxins.
Graeme: In Seeds of Change, you mentioned that the next book was to cover “GMOs, Agriculture and the Environment” – what happened to that book?
Jeffrey: I have been gathering thousands of documents for that book and it is coming. It was just that I saw an urgent need to address the health issues, as this suspect food has now infiltrated much of our food chain in the US. In the “Agriculture” book I will be looking at how GMOs are part of a system that was designed to force agriculture into a corporate model, thereby ignoring and violating laws of nature and systems-understanding, to support a reductionist, high profit, high input model. They are now questioning the sustainability of large-scale monoculture as an excuse to promote GMOs when in fact they should be looking at the beyond organic, biological, nutrient density programs. There are so many successful farmers who have shown that they can produce healthier food, tastier food and more biomass per acre. This is demonstrably more profitable for the farmer rather than the biotech company and much better for the health of the world.
Graeme: Returning to this book. What are some of the health issues you have identified in relation to GMOs? This is still relevant in our country as it was recently discovered that most of the supermarket bread in Australia contains genetically modified soy flour.
Jeffrey: Well the industry says this food is safe but if you look at the laboratory animals that have been fed this food you find pre-cancerous cell growth in their digestive tracts, smaller brains, livers and testicles (as Arpad reported), immune damage, lesions on the stomach, kidneys and livers, inflamed livers, damaged liver cells, smaller and larger than normal livers, altered gene expression within the livers, changes in metabolic activity suggesting toxic insult and altered enzyme activity. In some mice eating GM soy there was up to a 73% reduction in digestive enzymes. There are unexplained deaths in a number of studies and high death rates among offspring were common.
Graeme: The offspring thing mirrors the work of Dr Irina Ermakova in Russia. She is a senior scientist with the Russian Academy of Sciences who found that female rats supplemented with Roundup Ready soybeans gave birth to many severely stunted pups. Over half the litter was dead within three weeks and the survivors were sterile. Dr Ermakova had her funding cut and was “strongly discouraged” from further research. This was the first ever 90 day feed trial (the EU standard) to determine the effect on this food on reproductive function and neonatal development. It’s a bit crazy because GM soy has been commercialised for well over a decade.
Jeffrey: Yes. It’s common to see increases of 5 or 6 fold in the number of deaths among offspring. There are numerous significant and undeniable examples of the negative effects of GM food in animals. There are incredibly non-scientific explanations by the industry as to why these things are not biologically significant.
Graeme: It is a lot harder to monitor the effects on humans as there is no requirement for GM labeling and zero follow-ups. It was amazing in Australia because we had a referendum where 93% of the population voted for GM labeling. The PM at the time traveled to NZ and signed an agreement with his NZ counterpart to initiate labeling within 6 months. That was 5 years ago and nothing further has happened. The truly troubling thing was that there was not a whimper of discontent from the populace. Unfortunately, apathy rules at a time when there is no place for apathy. Have you chronicled any negatives for humans?
Jeffrey: Well, workers who harvest genetically engineered BT cotton are describing symptoms identical to those experienced by workers who were accidentally sprayed with BT spray in the Pacific North West in the US. These include swelling, skin rash and allergic reactions. Philipino people living next door to a BT cornfield describe allergic reactions and fever during the time of pollination and villagers experienced these two years in a row. In India, large numbers of sheep died after eating residues of BT cotton. A German farmer lost 15 animals after feeding BT corn and there have been numerous reports in the US of induced sterility in livestock after feeding BT corn.
Graeme: I guess there was some indication of problems right back in the 1980s when genetically modified L-tryptophan caused a health crisis which led to the banning of all L-tryptophan. This amino acid is an amazing, natural anti-depressant but it is still inexplicably banned in Australia 25 years later.
Jeffrey: Yes it took the lives of over 100 Americans at the time and caused 5000 to 10,000 to fall sick, but there was no problem with the natural form. It was completely linked to the GM version but the FDA withheld that information from congress at the time. When GM soy flour was introduced into the UK soy allergies increased by over 50%.
Graeme: Allergic reactions are always linked to a protein and we will now have alien proteins, coming into our food chain, the potential allergenicity of which are completely unknown.
Jeffrey: In the book, I identify several factors that may be contributing to the negative reactions. The first of these is related to collateral damage to the DNA during the gene transfer process. Secondly, the proteins that they insert are dangerous in themselves, as is the case with BT. The proteins may also differ from what was intended. There is also the issue of an increase in pesticide use, with several inherent problems, including increased residues.
Graeme: I understand that Monsanto claimed that they would treble their sales of Roundup following the introduction of Round Ready crops and it appears that they may have been right. The big question though relates to the increased levels of glyphosate residues on food crops and in soy hulls, which are a major animal food. You would wonder how they could bypass existing regulations regarding maximum residue levels. It seems that the relevant authorities were heavily lobbied to change the rules. The EU raised the legal daily limit of glyphosate residues to 20 mg per kg of food. This is sixty times greater than the acceptable limits previously recommended by the World Health Organisation. The EPA in the US raised the legally acceptable limits to 100 mg per kg of food. Absurdly, this is ten times the level at which anomalies have been observed in nature.
Jeffrey: Yes and meat eaters are ingesting record levels, as the herbicides accumulate in animal feeds like soybean hulls. I think that we must acknowledge that it is the corporations who hold the power in Washington and, of all of the corporate driven agendas, the biotech industry has some of the greatest influence. They have become remarkably adept at getting their own way.
The Bovine Growth Hormone travesty is a good example. In that case, they needed to increase the allowable levels of antibiotics in milk because cows are much more prone to mastitis when they are injected with this modified hormone. FDA whistleblowers have stated that Margaret Miller was the one that increased the allowable limits of antibiotics, one hundred fold. She had formerly been a Monsanto researcher working on GM. Incidentally, there has only been one human feeding study and in that research it was shown that the modified gene could transfer into organisms living in the gut. In fact, it might even transfer to the DNA of human cells.
When you look at all of the potential problems, when you look at all of the assumptions that were made as the basis of safety claims by the industry and find out that they turn out to be wrong and when you look at the mounting body of evidence of adverse reactions, there really is only one sane response. We must stop introducing the product of this infant science to millions of people and to ban its release outdoors where it can never be recalled. That is my mission!
Graeme: That’s a pretty good sort of mission in my eyes. One of the things that fascinated me in your presentation was the fact that in a recent US poll, people were asked “who had ever consumed GM food?” and 60% of the people believed they had not. This seemed crazy in a country where you are, in effect, one of 300 million guinea pigs for this technology. All of the bread contains GM soy, corn oil, sugars and other corn derivatives are everywhere and much of the dairy produce is linked to Bovine Growth Hormone. How could anyone think that they had missed out? Can you explain how so many of your people could be so ill informed?
Jeffrey: I have been comparing the EU press coverage of GMOs, in comparison to US coverage, for the past decade. The European reporters are skeptical as they evaluate risk but there is none of this in the US. The reports, if they exist at all, read like a biotech brochure. This is the result of a number of things including the corporate concentration and ownership of the media, which has an enormous bias in favour of the biotech industry. Secondly, those that do report anything negative often come under fire. I cover this in my book in a chapter called “Muscling the Media”. A great example of this was when Fox TV in Florida had prepared a five-part exposé of Bovine Growth Hormone. Letters of threat from Monsanto’s lawyers to Rupert Murdoch were ultimately successful in having the series canned. People who are researching GM often lose funding or standing or jobs or tenure.
Graeme: So much for the “home of free speech”.
Jeffrey: That’s the reason I decided to write a book. Studies have shown that the more people learn about this technology, the more they distrust it, so the obvious strategy is to withhold and suppress information. I am hopeful that the internet will fast track the spread of information and we will see a European style retreat by the American food industry in which they will publicly commit to remove GM ingredients from American brands. It happened so quickly in Europe once it started. In fact, it took just one week!
Graeme: I hope that you are right but I think that vested interests and cronyism in the US are more advanced than elsewhere in the world. I also wanted to ask you about the frenetic push into the third world by the biotech companies. I understand that it has been quite disastrous in some areas of India.
Jeffrey: There has been an unprecedented marketing push to introduce BT cotton into India. Bollywood actors have been hired to sing the praises, they employed a religious leader to talk positively about the technology and they paid prominent farmers to talk it up, in a marketing assault that convinced farmers that this was something special. They even provided yield assurances that prompted many to embrace the technology and to go into debt on the promise of great returns. Unfortunately, the modified cotton did not deliver. In fact, in one State, the yields were over 50% lower than conventional cotton. The result has been a disaster, where protesting farmers have burnt seed offices, taken seed salesmen as hostages and, tragically, the financial losses have driven tens of thousand of Indian farmers to suicide.
Graeme: Ironically, they often choose the pesticides provided by the same company as the tool to inflict their painful suicide.
Jeffrey: Yes. In one State the local Government had extracted a performance guarantee from Monsanto but they reneged on the deal when presented with the bill for the poor performance. They were subsequently thrown out of that state.
Graeme: These crops certainly don’t seem to live up to the constant promises of yield increases, anywhere in the world. There are huge areas of GM soy grown in the US. How has it performed from a yield perspective?
Jeffrey: There have been thousands of studies on GM soy and there is generally a 5% to 10% reduction in yield with these crops. They really have not been performing and there seems to be a real question about their resilience in dry conditions, as we have seen in India and elsewhere. This resilience issue extends to insect resistance. In one large Chinese study, it was found that any cost benefits from inherent protection from heliothis were nullified by the fact that the GM crops seemed to become less resistant to other insect pests. In fact, it became revenue negative because it cost more for the seed.
Graeme: The other resistance issue relates to the simple fact that insect pests are infinitely adaptable. The BT spray was traditionally used when insect pressure was present and the applied bacteria released their toxin for a couple of weeks before they died out on the leaf surface. The BT crops release their toxin 24/7, from the time the seed germinates until the time the crop dies and the toxin is 1000 times more potent than that produced by the bacteria. It is inevitable that the insect will eventually develop resistance and they are already increasing the strength to counter this. The increased toxicity also means that there will be collateral damage and we are already seeing this. Lacewings (a valuable natural predator) are being killed and monarch butterflies are also being compromised.
Jeffrey: These BT toxins are present in our food at these much higher rates and they have really not been researched from a human health perspective. Similarly the endocrine disrupting potential of the extra herbicide residues in our food has not been studied. There is also the issue of breakdown products. Monsanto claimed that there was no issue with breakdown products accumulating in their Roundup Ready crops. However, one study showed that the presence of AMPA, a breakdown product of glyphosate, was much higher in the plant than the residues of glyphosate on the plant. Ampa has yet to be tested adequately for safety even though it has become part of our diet. There is also the issue of the effect of the Roundup and BT toxins on soil microorganisms when they are present at these levels. There is evidence that there is a marked increase in Fusarium in the BT crops.
Graeme: Well, we are hearing reports that mycorrhizal fungi are suffering due to exposure to the BT toxin. This is particularly relevant to BT cotton because cotton is dependant upon mycorrhizal fungi for delivery of phosphate and zinc. However, Professor Don Huber’s new finding is probably more alarming. Don has found that glyphosate kills a group of organisms in the soil called manganese-reducing organisms who are responsible for the delivery of manganese to the plant. He was researching the cause of a disorder called “yellow flash” in GM soya beans. It turned out to be a manganese deficiency induced by killing the creatures that deliver this mineral. He also found that this herbicide has a similar effect upon iron-reducing organisms. In theory, food produced with this technology will now deliver significantly less manganese and iron. Manganese deficiency has been linked to the plague of chronic fatigue and iron deficiency is already the world’s largest mineral deficiency, particularly in the third world.
Jeffrey: There are so many issues with the premature introduction of these crops. BT is normally not stable in the soil as it breaks down on the leaf with UV light. However, these new BT toxins can bind with the soil and remain active for up to 200 days. There are so many serious things that have not been investigated. For example, there is the potential for BT genes to turn our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories. German research has revealed the potential for interspecies gene flow or horizontal gene transfer with the GM crops. When you take genes from bacteria and put it into a plant, then the gene sequence is similar to the gene sequence within the gut bacteria. That similarity of gene sequence is one of the prerequisites for certain types of gene transfer. You have broken the barrier related to different genetics in plant-based food. Then there is the promoter, the on-switch that is always attached to the gene during genetic modification. If it transfers to gut organisms it potentially continues to produce it’s gene product like a BT or a Roundup Ready. In the only human feeding study ever conducted they found that part of the Roundup Ready trans gene was now incorporated into the DNA of gut bacteria. They took that bacteria and filtered it through glyphosate and it survived. This indicates that the gut bacteria were producing the Roundup resistant enzyme inside our gut. We could end up with very different gut flora.
Graeme: That’s a huge issue considering that we should ideally have 100 trillion of these creatures lining our 30 ft digestive tract. They offer so many benefits and are so protective and who knows which of their multiple functions may be affected?
Jeffrey: Those with compromised digestive systems and immune systems will be most at risk. Imagine the famine victims in Africa where 90% of their calories are coming from imported BT corn. Aside from the issue of gene transfer, it appears that the BT itself can have a negative response. It has been linked to abnormal cell growth in the intestines of mice and an immune response equal to that of cholera toxin in mice. The US strongly condemned Zambia’s refusal of GM corn but I spoke out and praised them for securing alternative food sources and protecting their population.
Graeme: I can imagine how the refusal of this gift horse would gave been condemned but they were wise not to allow this potential Trojan nightmare into their midst. What about allergy increases? One would assume that there would be a measurable increase in allergies with all of these foreign proteins coming into the food chain.
Geoffrey: There is a huge increase in allergies in the US. There has been no systemised surveillance but a number of key studies have revealed the scale of the problem. Allergy doctors and pediatricians, when interviewed, report sky rocketing rates of food allergies. We also saw that between 1994 and 2001 there was a doubling of food related illnesses in the US.
Graeme: Again, this is no small issue. Food sensitivity and allergy is a major source of systemic inflammation and it is now understood that inflammation is directly linked to most of the degenerative diseases that seem to be on the rise.
Jeffrey: Obesity, heart disease, diabetes and lymphoma have all been increasing substantially since the introduction of this technology, as have Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD. The underlying sensitivity and inflammation can be a result of an introduced protein that was never part of the human food supply or there could be other proteins that are created or those whose levels are changed as a result of the process of gene transformation.
I was talking with a former Monsanto employee and he had found out that the GM cotton that was being trialed for the Californian market contained proteins that had never been tested. They were unexpected proteins as a byproduct of the gene transfer. He was studying prion disease independently at the time, so he was concerned that these proteins may be prions. This was prior to the awarding of the Nobel Prize for prion research. The cotton had not yet been approved for the Californian market and yet they were feeding it to local dairy cows. If prions were involved this could have been a serious issue. He spoke to some of his superiors informing them that the product of trials should not be introduced into the food system. He was told that “we’ve always done this and we will do it now”. He tried to push the issue to others at Monsanto about the ethical issues involved but he was not only ignored, he was ostracized. Then he decided to blow the whistle so he went to the Ag Commissioners in California and to various University Professors in that State. He said that their eyes just glazed over. They had no concept that there could be untoward effects of these proteins in the food supply.
I asked him if he considered himself a whistleblower and he said, “I tried to be, but no one would listen!” He had originally entered the Monsanto organisation thinking that he could effect some positive changes with this exciting new technology, based upon the writings of Robert Shapiro who introduced the technology. However, his idealism was soon addressed by a vice president who pulled him aside and said, “What Robert Shapiro says is one thing but what we do is something else! We are here to make money. We don’t even understand what Robert is talking about”.
Graeme: It seems a little naive to expect anything but the profit motive from these faceless corporations. I also wanted to ask you about the ARM (Antibiotic Resistance Marker) gene that is part of many transfers. It is an antibiotic marker gene that can be used to check the success of a transfer. If the GM end product is antibiotic-resistant, then the transfer worked. Surely this provides the potential for the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs at some point. What do you think?
Jeffrey: Every medical organisation that has looked at this has concluded that the use of ARM genes is a potential catastrophe. There was a compromise though, where it was accepted that it would be acceptable to involve less popular antibiotics like canomycin, which had supposedly been largely phased out. It turns out that canomycin is not phased out. It is used in certain types of surgery and it is used extensively in veterinarian medicine. It is also part of a family of popular antibiotics and there is the possibility for cross reactivity. If the use of ARM genes using canomycin backfires, they will have to stop using canomycin in animal medicine, which reduces the limited options for treatments. This potentially fast tracks resistance issues with the few products remaining. Check out the secret FDA memos (at biointegrity.org) that were recently made public in a law suit. You will see that the Division of Anti Infective Drugs wrote in capital letters that “It would be a serious health hazard to introduce the genome codes for antibiotic resistance into the intestinal flora of the general population”.
The reason that this food made it on to your plates in Australia and in many other countries around the world is directly related to claims by the FDA that the agency “was not aware of any information showing that these foods were different in any meaningful or uniform way”. In fact, documents recently made public have shown that it was the overwhelming consensus of the FDA scientists that they were different, that they could lead to different risks. They felt that hard-to-detect, new allergies, toxins and diseases might be created and they urged their superiors to demand long term safety studies. It was a political rather than a scientific decision to run with this technology. In fact, as it got further and further up the political ladder, the crops got safer and safer! (laughs!)
Graeme: I guess the potential kudos and rewards associated with the US being first in with this technology overrode the safety issues. We will have to see a disaster and associated enquiry before there is legislation introduced to counter the potential for the profit motive to overrule science. I would like to know about the Canadian case involving Percy Schmeiser. He is the canola farmer who was sued by Monsanto because some of their GM crop had contaminated his crop and they accused him of stealing their technology. He initially lost the case and then appealed, but I never knew the final outcome.
Jeffrey: I should mention that The Centre For Food Safety came out with a booklet called “Monsanto vs. Farmers” and they documented 189 incidents where Monsanto has sued famers or small farming businesses for similar things. Percy is one of many. He actually won his appeal. There was subsequently further contamination of his crop. When he contacted Monsanto to address the estimated $50,000 in crop damage and to remove the contaminated crop they arrived with some paperwork for him to sign. He had to agree to never sue Monsanto in the future and never talk to the media about any issues in the past, present or future. Percy refused to be gagged and the Monsanto people left without removing the contaminated crop. Percy was considering suing Monsanto last time I spoke with him.
Graeme: Well that’s great to hear that he seems to have won his David and Goliath confrontation. What about the Terminator gene technology (GM plants that can’t reproduce) that was originally sidelined due to public outcry, but seems to be scheduled for an insidious return?
Jeffrey: Well it does seem to be back on the agenda. Monsanto have recently bought Delta Seed and Pine, the company responsible for this technology, so they have consolidated this technology in their hands. The Canadian government have been pushing to have it reintroduced, based on evaluation on a case-by-case basis. When it originally came out, the marketing materials were clearly focused upon developing countries. The intent was to tap into the 1.4 billion people who save their seed for their own survival and to turn them into customers.
Graeme: Yes, these farmers then become dependant upon the patent holder for their own survival. There is an obvious power game involved here.
Jeffrey: Their latest spin is to argue for the use of the Terminator gene to prevent cross contamination. It’s a handy distraction so we won’t talk about turning third world countries into bio serfdoms.
Graeme: Yes, environmental containment certainly sounds more appealing than enslavement. Another thing I wanted to ask you relates to oils produced from GM crops. The industry has suggested that there is no issue here as there are no proteins involved, but I suspect that the contamination involves more than proteins.
Jeffrey: There can be massive collateral damage within the DNA of the host crop during the process of gene transfer. The changes can involve allergens, toxins and carcinogens, some of which may appear in the final product, even if it contains no DNA or protein. There can be fat-soluble toxins created through the process of genetic engineering that were never tested. The current Australian model of approvals completely dismisses the well-known, unpredicted effects linked to gene transfer. There is no testing for GM related toxins in canola oil, for example, and there most definitely should be since it is the basis for most of the margarine on the market.
Graeme: I’m not a big fan of margarine at the best of times. It is the ultimate garbage food and that’s another nail in the coffin! In your presentation last night you mentioned the issues in relation to Liberty Link corn. Can you please reiterate for the benefit of my readers?
Jeffrey: Liberty Link corn was involved in the biggest food recall in American history. This GM corn was only approved for animal consumption but it made its way into the human food chain on a large scale. This corn involved genes from bacteria that break down the herbicide, glufosinate, and convert it into a compound called NAG. The herbicide can be freely sprayed over the GM corn without killing it. The problem is that NAG tends to accumulate in the plant and when researchers fed NAG into mice and goats, some of it converted back into herbicide. They noticed it in the poo, but they have also found it in the liver and the kidneys and even a little bit in the milk.
It means that if we eat Liberty Link corn or the newly contaminated Liberty Link rice, it could theoretically convert the NAG back into herbicide inside our intestines. The quantities are quite low but it must be kept in mind that very low levels of certain chemicals can be endocrine disrupters and although glufosinate has not been tested at low levels for these negative effects, it has been known to disrupt fetal development.
Graeme: I was also interested in some of the negatives associated with soy products. This is particularly relevant in light of recent findings that have confirmed the presence of GM soy flour in many of our commercial bread products in Australia. I think that unfermented soy products should generally be avoided due to the high content of enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. Are there any nutritional differences in the GM soy flour?
Jeffrey: The original 1996 study by Monsanto on the nutritional equality of their GM soy was later found to be seriously flawed. They had compared different samples from different areas so there were no valid nutritional comparisons. The study was simply rigged to avoid finding problems. There were also significant differences hidden inside the tables in relation to carbohydrate and ash component. The only side-by-side comparison was in a field in Puerto Rico but for obvious reasons that study was not included in the data. There were many differences in that only side-by-side study including essential amino acids and proteins.
They also failed to include information about the changes in cooked soy. In the raw soy there is an enzyme called trypsin inhibitor and it was 27% higher in the GM soy. However, in one case this inhibitor was seven times higher when the soy was cooked. These potentially dangerous proteins do not seem to be denatured during the cooking process with the GM soy. GM soy is potentially much more allergenic and we know that soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% following the introduction of GM soy flour into the UK. There was also a soy lectin found in the suppressed comparison study that was many times higher than non GM soy and this could potentially block the absorption of nutrients. So, yes, there are important differences and Australians should avoid eating bread that contains GM soy flour.
Graeme: The EC has been remarkably proactive in keeping the GMOs out of Europe to this point. I thought that the Japanese Government was the only one that offered this level of protective support to their people.
Jeffrey: In all honesty it is not the Government that is driving this resistance but rather the people. In some areas of the US, the biotech companies have stitched up the whole deal. They supply the seed and chemicals to grow a crop. They finance the Ag colleges and control the rural newspapers. These farmers have only heard the propaganda. The newspapers cannot afford to run an article that is negative towards GMOs because they are biting the hand that feeds them. In Europe the people have received much more information and we now know that the more information about GMs that a consumer receives, the less likely they are to want GM contamination of their food. The “contains GMOs” label becomes a skull and crossbones that does not sell product.
Graeme: What advice do you have for those of us who do not want our food polluted and are not happy with this premature, greed-based farce?
Jeffrey: You can’t be apathetic about something as serious as this issue. If you are not prepared to fight for the health of your children and future generations than what on earth is worth fighting for? You need to demand the labeling you voted for, you need to avoid any foods containing GMs. You need to write to offending food producers and shout your outrage. We need some common sense in terms of recognizing the insufficiency of the man-made barriers designed to prevent cross contamination. I mean the tiny distance required between GM and other crops is simply ridiculous. How did Mexican corn become so widely contaminated when GM corn is prohibited in that country? How did Hawaii which was pure lava rock, 2000 miles away from the nearest mainland, become a tropical paradise. Bees are the biggest carriers and they travel a couple of miles, not the absurd five-meter buffer zone that is currently required for these crops. You guys only have cotton, and some canola trials happening at present. Stand up and stop the GMs in your country while you still can!
Graeme: I couldn’t agree more strongly. Thank you so much for your time and your passion.