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Genetic modified organisms or GMOs have transformed the entire food industry and global health on a massive scale. And with the recent advent of CRISPR technologies and more complex genetic engineering methods, the new landscape of GMO 2.0 has arrived. Although they are a testament to our scientific progress, they could be doing more harm than good to our bodies. Corinna Bellizzi sits down with global thought leader and author Jeffrey Smith, who presents the dangers of GMOs and genetic engineering. He explains how agrochemical/agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto continues to find legal loopholes to integrate toxic chemicals into their food products. Jeffrey also talks about the difference between hybridized and GMOs, why microbes are the hardest species to genetically engineer, and how eating organic food delivers way more benefits than you could imagine.
About Jeffrey Smith
As a global thought leader on the health dangers of genetically modiﬁed organisms (GMOs) for over 27 years, Jeffrey Smith has authored 2 bestsellers, directed 5 documentaries, delivered 2,000 lectures and interviews in 45 countries, trained 1,500 speakers, and organized more than 10,000 grassroots advocates. Jeffrey has counseled world leaders on six continents, and his meticulous research presented at medical conferences inspired thousands to prescribe non-GMO and organic diets. The success of the GMO education movement he pioneered is measured in part by the 48% of world consumers who acknowledge GMOs are unhealthy. Taking on GMO 2.0 Jeffrey and IRT are now sounding the alarm about new genetic engineering techniques, such as gene editing. Unregulated, GMO 2.0 can cause health and environmental disasters. The most urgent danger comes from genetically engineered microbes. Jeffrey is stewarding a global effort to prevent their release.
Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffrey-smith-81441312/
Guest Website: https://responsibletechnology.org/
00:00 – Introduction
03:25 – Concerning things about GMOs
08:11 – GMO 2.0 and Monsanto
18:50 – Dangers of gene editing
25:12 – Frankenfish, rabbits, and human disruption
31:45 – Hybridized vs GMO
35:39 – Microbes
45:01 – A high need for a wake-up
50:57 – Eating organic
54:00 – Getting to “of course”
01:01:06 – Closing Words
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The True Destructive Impact Of GMOs On Global Health With Jeffrey Smith
In this episode, we’re going to talk about all things related to GMOs, otherwise known as Genetically Modified Organisms or foods. Given the recent advents in CRISPR technologies, the entire landscape of GMOs and genetic engineering as a whole has changed and continues to change day by day. Many are calling this new landscape GMO 2.0. To navigate these murky waters and help us all understand the risks associated with GMOs and the genetic engineering of our natural world, I’m joined by Jeffrey Smith.
As a global thought leader on GMOs for over 27 years, he has authored two bestsellers, directed five documentaries, delivered over 2,000 lectures and interviews in 45 different countries, trained 1,500 speakers, and organized more than 10,000 grassroots advocates. His meticulous research has been presented at medical conferences and inspired thousands to prescribe non-GMO and organic diets. Jeffrey Smith, welcome to the show.
Thank you. It’s great to be here, Corinna.
As we get our start, it was amazing to be at an event with you, the Soil & Health Forum up in Petaluma, and be able to see so many people come together and talk about these important issues. I’m completely blown away by this upswelling of activists in our local area in Northern California. Overall, I want to express my thanks to you for operating as the emcee that day. You did a fantastic job.
Thank you. I was very impressed with the quality of the speakers. There were a lot of facts per minute and very relevant facts. I think that was a great conference.
Sometimes, these efforts show their best face through local grassroots events like this one. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet you. Part of the reason I was so excited to invite you here is to help our audience understand why GMOs pissed me off so much. I’m even driven to this moment of some complacency because there’s so little understanding on the part of people who don’t spend their time digging into the science of what GMOs are, what CRISPR technologies do, and how genetic engineering impacts our foods.
Also, there are these prominent figures out there who will make statements about GMOs like they’re nothing to be worried about. One example comes to mind from someone I respect, and that’s Neil deGrasse Tyson. He knows a lot about space but not so much about the inner space of our bodies and how foods affect them from what I’ve seen.
He’ll make a comment about GMOs and make it seem like it’s nothing to be feared at all, and why all of us or the people in the natural products industry are up in arms about these things. My hope as we get started is that you could help this audience understand what GMOs are and why they are something to be concerned about.
I was aware of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s comment and I responded to it. I might have mentioned that geneticist David Suzuki said that anyone who says that GMOs are safe is either intentionally lying or stupid. I would give Neil deGrasse Tyson the benefit of the doubt without saying which one that meant. He certainly blew it when he tried to comment outside of his area of expertise.
The thing is there are a lot of reasons why someone might think it’s safe. For example, if they read the FDA policy in place now and published in 1992, it says the agency is not aware of any information showing that foods created by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way. If there’s no difference, there is no need for testing and no need for labeling. That’s why the FDA policy was and is, and companies like Monsanto can put their foods on the market without even telling the FDA.
They can participate in a meaningless exercise of a voluntary consultation process. At the end of which, they get a letter reminding them that it’s their responsibility to determine if their foods are safe, and not the FDA’s. If we were to think that the FDA policy was based on science, then there’s no difference. In fact, that is the basis of the entire government policy on GMOs and it’s a lie. It’s fraud.
We know because of documents made public from a lawsuit seven years after the policy was in place. It was exactly the opposite of the overwhelming consensus among the scientists working at the FDA. They said that the process of GMOs and natural breeding are different and lead to different risks. It highlighted the possibility of allergens, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. It encouraged the policy to include human toxicological studies among others. All of it was ignored. The existence of their concerns was denied in the policy that said, “We’re not aware of any information showing that the foods are different.”
On the basis of that fraud, GMOs were put into the food supply to such an extent that the average American eats more than their weight in GMOs per year. We believe it is contributing to more than 40 diseases, not just in a minor way. Millions upon millions of people are suffering from diseases needlessly, which we think is either created or exacerbated by the GMOs or the Roundup herbicide that’s sprayed on most GMOs. I think that many people in the audience who aren’t aware of that may want to know which diseases and what the evidence is. I’m happy to share that information, but with the current GMOs 2.0, it gets even worse.GMOs are put into the food supply to such an extent that the average American eats more than their weight in GMOs per year. This contributes to more than 40 diseases in millions of people. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk first about the difference between where we’ve been, which is the standard GMOs that got us into the world where we even needed a non-GMO project with that butterfly on the seal because flocks of Monarch butterflies were dying off because of corn that was genetically engineered to contain glyphosate. That was 1.0, the first problem. What is different about 2.0?
The 1.0, Monsanto was selling Roundup and it was very profitable. The chief poison in Roundup was glyphosate and it was patented by Monsanto. It was originally patented as a descaler to clean industrial boilers and pipes because it grabbed onto minerals and pulled them off. When it was spilled on the ground, it killed plants. Monsanto bought the molecule, patented it, and put it into Roundup.
In 2000, the patent was going to expire so they found some bacteria growing in a chemical waste dump in the presence of Roundup, not dying. Roundup is an antibiotic. It usually kills a lot of bacteria and they figured, “Great. Let’s put it in the food supply.” They took a gene that produced the ability for the bacteria to survive and they put it into soy, corn, cotton, canola, and now sugar beets and Alfalfa. To put it in there, they would take a gene gun with millions of particles of tungsten or gold, coated in this gene complex, and shoot it into a plate of cells, hoping that it gets into the DNA of some of those cells or they would equip bacteria to smuggle it in.
They didn’t know where in the DNA it ended up. They didn’t know what kind of collateral damage occurred in the DNA causing all sorts of changes that are substantial and have later been verified. When they clone those cells into a plant, that plant had that little bacterial DNA gene in every cell, allowing the plant not to die when sprayed with Roundup herbicide. They called it Roundup Ready.
Essentially, it was a way for farmers to weed more easily so they could spray right over the top of the food crops their glyphosate-based herbicide, killing all of the other plant biodiversity, which weeds and does not kill the genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops. When a farmer bought the seeds, he or she would sign a contract that they would only use Monsanto’s version and not the knockoffs later made by China after the patent expired. It was a way of selling more herbicides.
The process of genetic engineering created massive collateral damage. The Roundup Ready corn has higher levels of putrescine and cadaverine, responsible for the foul odor of rotting dead bodies that are linked to cancer and allergies. Ultimately, it was a lot worse. Animal feeding studies, human reports, clinical experience, and now we understand more the modes of action linked these foods to digestive disorders, fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain fog, hypertension, autism, all sorts of cancers, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. It’s basically all of the major diseases we are experiencing.
We could identify that it could be the GMO itself and the changes that occur. It could be the Roundup, which when it gets sprayed on the crop, gets absorbed into the crop. Most of it moves or a lot of it moves into the food portion. You can’t wash it off. It’s inside there and we eat it. There are also certain crops that produce their own insecticide that kills insects. That also can have a negative effect on human beings as well.
Between these three things, we think that it’s clobbering our health. We have plenty of evidence enough to convince scientists and physicians to say this is dangerous and should never have been approved. Now, there is a new way of creating GMOs, gene editing. Most people have heard of CRISPR. It’s touted as a possible technology to help fix defective genes in humans. That may be possible in the future but right now, according to the prominent science journal called Nature, the outcome of three CRISPR experiments on human embryos showed so many side effects that it was described as chromosomal mayhem.
You can end up with added genes, deleted genes, scrambled genes, and mutations up and down the DNA. Some of these also have inheritable changes in gene expression called epigenetic effects. Essentially, it wasn’t ready for prime time. It turns out that the biotech industry is in the habit of lying. We talked about one big fraud. We’ve documented so much evidence about Monsanto lying.
Maybe they’re editing the truth.
I talked to a former Monsanto scientist who said that they genetically engineered corn and fed it to rats, and the rats showed significant problems. Instead of withdrawing the corn, they rewrote the study to hide the effects. Yeah, they edited it. Someone I debated on the TV show The Doctors, and then later documents were made public from a lawsuit. She ghostwrote a paper where she took out the link between glyphosate and miscarriages. She took her name off of the paper and Monsanto’s name off the paper, so we’ll call it editing. They gene-edit it.
I wasn’t trying to make it lighter. The joke is that they were gene-editing and they were also comfortable editing the truth here to make it marketable. It is essentially where we’re at. Even if we look at Monsanto, it got such a bad name that Bayer bought Monsanto and put to bed the name of Monsanto. I got to speak with Kelly Ryerson who is also colloquially known as “The Glyphosate Girl” on my other show, Nutrition Without Compromise. She talked about the fact that as soon as Bayer bought that company, they were taking down the Monsanto sign within minutes.
I believe that because of how bad of a reputation Monsanto has. People in my industry, the natural products industry, colloquially referred to them as Monsatan broadly because there was so much that was hidden from the public and was actively lobbied in Congress to get some of these approvals ramrodded through so there weren’t environmental protections to prevent them from being able to do what they do, which is deplorable. That’s a la Monsatan.
Now, Bayer continues that tradition. They and others have lied to governments very effectively, claiming that the same technology that causes chromosomal mayhem and could kill people if it was tried at this point using gene therapy based on the side effects should be completely deregulated when creating genetically engineered plants, animals, or microbes. They have succeeded in the United States, Canada England, Japan, India, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina.
Either plants or animals or microbes or combinations are now allowed to be gene-edited by a technology that creates massive collateral damage and is released into the environment or into the food supply. There’s a company called Conscious Foods, which is gene editing mustards and salad greens, and selling them to restaurants and catering organizations so that we don’t even know that it’s genetically engineered, and they’re not doing any safety studies.
Some of these companies are calling it non-GMO, pretending that it’s non-GMO because they’re not putting genes from other species into it, which the government then turns a blind eye and says, “We don’t care because there’s no transfer of genes from one to another.” They’re ignoring the fact that the process can create allergens, toxins, carcinogens, or anti-nutrients in the food.
What this means is if you want to get a CRISPR lab yourself, which the basic is less than $2,000, you can create genetically engineered organisms and put them in the environment. You can put them in the food supply and there’s no one telling you that you can’t. There’s no one telling you that you have to label it or have a specific safety assessment. Certain ones do require labeling. If you have a certain number of dollars you’re selling. Essentially, if you sell it to a restaurant or catering organization, it’s a loophole for labeling.
I want to bring up a couple of examples that people might remember that were somewhat entertaining. If you happen to have watched The Daily Show when Jon Stewart hosted it. He had this somewhat recurring bit that was, “What are they doing to pigs?” In one of them, they were gene-editing a pig to produce more omega-3 so you could get healthy bacon. It sounds on the surface that it could be interesting.
Another was gene-editing and a radioactive isotope, which made the pigs glow in the dark. These might sound like cute little antidotes at the onset, but they are practices by which you can insert genes from a plant into an animal and from an animal into a plant. You can make a tomato that is less likely to bruise by inserting frog DNA. That has been done. Even the question then becomes of what is a responsible product from a vegetarian standpoint. If you are a vegan or vegetarian and you’re not buying purely organic, you could be getting this mistreatment of animals from a tomato that you buy on the market.
When I was on The Daily Show, I talked about a genetically engineered potato. A couple of years later, the person who created that potato retired. He worked first with Monsanto and then with the big potato company J.R. Simplot, which produced the potato. He wrote a book saying it was the worst GMO. He described page after page how this genetically engineered potato that he designed could create disease, death, and environmental problems.
He hadn’t paid any attention to these things when he was working in the industry. It was only after he retired. I suspect he read some of my work because when I read the book, I was like, “I think I wrote that.” He did some interviews and then, all of a sudden, stopped talking about it because apparently, he was threatened. As an example, that particular potato was designed not to turn brown when sliced. It had a gene in the DNA of the potato that silenced another gene that produced the browning.
One of the many things that could go wrong is that if we eat the potato, that gene may silence and reprogram our gene expression. That could be catastrophic. It’s one of many things that could go wrong. Coming back to GMO 2.0, the biotech industry has convinced governments that gene editing is safe, precise, natural, and does not have to be regulated.
What is gene editing? Let’s talk about CRISPR. In the past, the genetic engineer would blast things in with a gene gun or you’d smuggle them in with bacteria. Here, you insert molecular scissors that guide to tell the scissors where along the DNA they should cut. It can cut in many places it’s not intended to. That’s called off-target effects. Wherever it cuts, when the DNA repair mechanism comes out from the cell to fix this emergency, it can create all sorts of massive problems. It can cause DNA that happens to be in the petri dish from another animal or from the bacteria that was used to insert the molecular scissors. That can be stuffed in. It can cause deletions, additions, mutations, etc.
It sounds like we’re watching The Fly now with Jeff Goldblum.
The thing is all of that has been deregulated. It’s an absolute disaster waiting to happen in our food supply. Here’s the thing. It gets worse. It is so easy now to create GMOs with CRISPR. We’re in the gene rush. All of these different companies, entrepreneurs, and academics are looking to get there. patented GMOs are out on the market quickly in order to make a lot of money and fix something. Everything that they want to change in nature. There’s been a discussion for years about genetically engineering out the mothering instinct of livestock so they don’t care if their children are taken from them upon birth.
There’s genetically engineering livestock so that they don’t have horns so you don’t have to dehorn them. You could put them together closed in factory farms. They tried that. It ended up creating bacteria genes in the cows that they didn’t even know for two and a half years. They discovered it accidentally afterwards. They had to kill all the cows that they were creating.
Essentially, everything with DNA is targetable and being targeted more and more, insects, trees, grass, livestock, pets, and fish. We can, in this generation, replace nature because when you release them into the environment, these organisms which have new DNA, behaviors, and compositions are unrecollable. They self-propagate and corrupt the gene pool, and ultimately, end biological evolution as we know it and create a combo pack of the products of the billions of years of evolution, along with the products of lab techniques prone to side effects. That’s what we’re foisting on future generations.In this generation, we can replace nature when you release GMOs into the environment because of their new DNA behaviors that allow them to self-propagate and corrupt biological evolution. Click To Tweet
I have to comment on this too because I got to interview Simen Saetre who wrote this incredible book called The New Fish. The reason he called that the new fish has something to do with selecting a specific species that you’ve manipulated quite a bit to then propagate as a salmon that’s farmed from a scale that is unfathomable to most people, which has weakened wild fish populations because there’s always escape.
When those fish escape, even if they might out-compete the wild variant in how quickly they can grow, they don’t outcompete them in their strength. They don’t outcompete them and their ability to combat regular diseases they might confront, and they don’t know how to go upstream to their spawning grounds. You end up with a fish that isn’t coming in and bringing nutrients from the sea into the riverbeds. You end up with weakened populations.
Now, we’re in a situation where he stated on this show that before, you might have had millions of salmon in the rivers of Norway. Now, you might be able to fill two entire of those sea net pens with wild fish where there are thousands of them that contain farm fish. It has devastated the wild fish populations. As an adult in his 30s or maybe 40s, he said he’s never consumed wild salmon. He’s Norwegian. What the heck?
They’re talking about not genetically engineered salmon at this point because that hasn’t been released in these factories.
The Frankenfish has not been released. I wasn’t sure about that.
We’re pretty confident that AquaBounty has the genetically engineered variety, which grows more quickly because they insert genes from other fish to keep the growth hormone going year-round. Usually, it shuts down for part of the year, but it pushes the growth hormone so it’s growing and growing. It’s supposed to get to market in less time. Some Canadian researchers did the same type of genetic engineering with salmon. They tested the salmon in a bunch of tanks.
When they fed enough food to the genetically engineered salmon, there was no problem. When they reduced the amount of food, these voracious fish were so hungry because they were growing. They got aggressive. They cannibalized and killed off other fish, whether it was other genetically engineered fish in the tank or natural fish. In every tank that they did an experiment on, it caused a reduction, a collapse, or an extinction of the population. The tanks were designed to look like the ocean. They became much more aggressive going into areas that the natural salmon did not.
Imagine, if they escaped, you have these gangs of genetically engineered Frankenfish going out and killing off competitors and possibly taking over the niche from nature. Is it possible to take over the niche? There was a computer-generated program where they found that a Japanese fish called the medaka had a 30% reduction in its tendency for viable offspring. In the computer-generated model, they put 60 fish in a population of 60,000 and ran it. In 40 generations, it was extinct.
This is something that could happen in the wild. You can wipe out salmon and you can wipe out other things. They’re creating these eggs and supposedly bringing the eggs to a landlocked tank to grow, but once they’re approved and out there, there are no laws against them being sold to developing countries where they’ll be put in fish farms. I think there were two million released per year from these fish farms because of broken nets and surges.
That’s unavoidable. You can’t engineer away from that.
The guys that created the genetically engineered mosquito. I was talking to one of the chief scientists and he said, “It won’t change the gene pool. All the mosquitoes die.” Three years after they released it in Brazil, it changed the gene pool of mosquitoes there forever. It was completely exactly the opposite of what he promised me as we were both testifying for or against the genetically engineered mosquito.
It’s an example of basically we’ve arrived at this time in human civilization where we can, on purpose or by accident, redirect the streams of evolution for all time irreversibly and permanently. The folly of this new technology unregulated could be forced upon every future generation. The example that I like to use because it’s so obvious and easy, 24 rabbits were introduced in 1859 into Australia so that visitors would feel more comfortable because they get to hunt rabbits like they did in the UK. Rabbits multiply like rabbits. By the 1920s, there were about ten billion of them because there was no natural predator. It destroyed and changed the entire landscape and ecology.
People put up rabbit-proof fences which disrupted the migratory path of wild animals and resulted in some of them dying from dehydration because they couldn’t get to their water sources. The unintended consequences were quite large. This is what happens every time the human species gets involved with deciding that they’re going to disrupt how something occurs in nature.
I think we are totally in line and in sync. What I want to help people understand right now is that the core difference between taking this genetically modified approach, and doing genetic engineering with CRISPR or the 1.0 version is different than hybridization. Even in the case where we are creating fish stock that we think can survive better and we’re farming them in the open net on our oceans and in our fjords of Norway and everywhere else, we are affecting the viability of wild populations.
However, not potentially as drastically as some of the other stuff that we do because we could theoretically stop farming and let these ecosystems recover. We could theoretically shift how we’re doing this to a landlocked approach. Paul Greenberg wrote a book called Four Fish. He argued in that book that we chose the wrong four fish to farm. I think it was bass, cod, salmon, and tuna. We farmed these four fish and they don’t take the ponds too well.
Farming them in a location where it’s completely separate from the aquatic ocean world is challenging. They don’t survive. He argued that we chose the wrong four fish. Tilapia might have worked all day long, but tilapia is also low in omega-3. It doesn’t get as much popularity around it as a source of the nutrients that we need. Regardless, how do we help people understand that the difference is vast? You’ve had this conversation so much. I can hybridize a pluot with a plum and an apricot and it’s a new fruit, but it’s not GMO. How does that differ?
Nature has done this experiment for millions of years and sorted it out with those that eat the food and whatnot as to what is safe and what works. When you genetically engineer something, you create such damage as with the bt toxin created in corn. You have two things going. The toxin itself is designed to poke holes in the guts of insects to kill them. You’re putting that now into corn. It might be creating a leaky gut inside of us. You’re adding a gene to make industrial agriculture work better. That’s never been part of the human food supply. It might be creating not only a leaky gut which can lead to virtually all diseases but it can also promote immune responses. It can also create sensitivity to formerly harmless compounds according to research on animals.
In addition, the process of inserting turned on a gene in the corn and produces a known allergen. It’s not found in natural corn. You can hybridize and hybridize but that gene doesn’t turn on, but it does turn on with the genetically engineered variety. It’s something that’s new, untested, and unlabeled. If it had been part of nature and we knew that corn can produce allergens, then that would have been something we would have dealt with. Now, we’re introducing completely new elements.
The greatest danger comes when you think, “What is the most dangerous species to genetically engineer?” The answer is microorganisms. The microbes as we now know and I’m sure you’ve interviewed people about it turn out to be mission-critical for human health and the environment. In terms of human health, perhaps 80% of all diseases can find their source in changes in the microbiome, particularly the gut microbiome. We’re talking about massive numbers. It’s so many that they’re like a second organ or another organ.
We have 37 trillion to 39 trillion human cells and at least that much again of bacteria.
Also, there are more viruses, fungi, and all that.
We are not our bodies alone. We are an ecosystem in itself. When we land blast our microbiome, health degrades. This is one of the reasons that we have such out-of-control hormone issues because hormones are so affected by your microbiome. We’re just beginning to understand how much. It’s all of your metabolic processes. You could even argue that you’re mitochondria are essentially like one of these. In fact, it looks discernible from bacteria under a microscope. They’re basically inborn.
Even the ones that aren’t part of our cells operate together in symbiogenesis, where we outsource up to 90% of our daily metabolic and chemical functions to the microbes living inside us. That’s why we can get away as humans with a measly 23,000 genes less than earthworms because we use the 3.5 million genes of the microbes living inside us. To give you an example of how brilliant the microbe-human interaction is, we know that establishing a healthy microbiome in the gut of an infant is essential for their lifelong health.
How does the microbiome and the human work together to create? Milk-digesting microbes travel to the birth canal in the second trimester and inoculate the infant during the birthing process. The first milk from the breast takes out all the oxygen in the gut to produce a healthier environment for anaerobic microbes, particularly bifidobacteria. More microbes then come from the breast. More microbes come from the skin of the nipple.
If the baby is unhealthy, their salivary microbes get fed back to the mother to change the formula until the child is healthy. A significant amount of the breast milk is completely undigestible by the infant. It’s not designed for the infant. It’s to feed the microbe. When we think about that, we have no idea how intricate it is, but it’s like that at every level. Soil is even more complex. Not only does it support healthy crops, food, and basically the entire ecosystem above the ground but it sequesters carbon.
The algae in the ocean produces most of the world’s oxygen. The fungal networks shuttle nutrients between trees. One of the ways that the microbe is so intelligent is that it swarms DNA. It shares DNA in these big flea markets or flea swaps. They share DNA to see what works and they figure out as a microbiome, which is a microbial community, how they can best support their host or the ecosystem that they live in, and how they can best be supported by it.
There’s a lot of gene swapping and this has evolved over millions and billions of years so that the micro Jedi army is the foundation of so much of the ecosystems outside and inside of us. Now, you take gene-edited microbes and you release them. Maybe you’re releasing them on purpose like Pivot Bio, which has something that is on three million acres of corn with five trillion microbes per acre, and that’s not even the biggest GM microbe producer.
You have companies that use genetically engineered microbes in factories to produce things that might escape. The biggest source of a variety of genetically engineered microbes will be high school biology students. Unless we do something, every school is going to be equipped with CRISPR costing less than $2,000 to get a lab. They will be producing in mass millions of varieties of genetically engineered microbes released every year.
I’m here in Silicon Valley. You’re close there too. I’m just over the hill in Santa Cruz County. There is the incentivization of entrepreneurship in this space, so much so that you have novel food sources coming up where you can make chicken-like meat in a Petri dish using microbes. How many of these are genetically engineered to do that work? I would imagine most of them.
A lot of them. When you talk about cultured meat, you can do it with or without GMOs. Some are clear that they use a combination of culturing, which is a kind of cloning and gene editing. They work together and both have side effects. I’m not an expert at cloning. If something is just cultured, it’s not my area. If something uses gene–editing, I perk up and say, “That’s a problem.” There are things like Impossible Burger, where they genetically engineer yeast with a gene from the roots of soybean plants.
That fermentation vat produces something red called leghemoglobin, which they then put into the burger. They ask the FDA and the Obama Administration, “Can you call this generally recognized as safe?” They said, “No, way. It’s never been in the human food supply. There’s no evidence.” They said, “We’re going to feed it to people anyway.” In the Trump administration, without any additional evidence, the FDA changed its position and said, “Sure. We’ll call it generally recognized as safe.”
When you look at the animal feeding studies, there’s evidence of harm. Moreover, it’s not just the leghemoglobin that was put in. They scooped up all the proteins in that vat. Forty-six uncharacterized proteins constitute 30% of that slurry and are put into the burger. People are reporting getting sick from eating it. There’s no surveillance to say if it is in fact the burger. We know a lot of people are reporting it but it could be a serious problem when they use a similar type of synthetic biology programming in Japan back in the ‘80s to create L-tryptophan. The process created little micro contaminants that ended up killing about a hundred Americans and causing 5,000 to 10,000 to fall sick. We didn’t learn the lesson from that.
Coming back to the microbes here, imagine that you released a genetically engineered microbe accidentally as a high school student. It might travel the planet, and swap its genes into 10,000 different microbes that in turn travel the planet and mutate and swap their genes. If you have given it a survival advantage, it does survive and most won’t. If it does survive, it can wreak havoc inside our bodies or outside our bodies.
What happens if the soil isn’t sequestering carbon? What happens if the microbiome in infants does not support health? All of these things are at risk and any release is untrackable and unfathomable in what it can do. There are a trillion microbes and we’ve only discovered maybe 1,000. Maybe 1% of them characterized 1% of the trillion.
Every time we discover more about the importance of the microbiome, we’re in awe. Mouthwash can cause higher blood pressure because it can kill the microbes in the mouth that produce nitric oxide. There are so many mind-boggling things. The microbes on the skin keep our skin healthy. I can go on and on but I won’t. You get the point.
Now, I understand what Mark said when he was introducing you, “Be nice. Be kind to them, Jeffrey.” I don’t like to come from a place of fear, but this is scary.
If you want to get the full alarm or the full wake-up call go to ResponsibleTechnology.org and look at the sixteen-minute film called Don’t Let the Gene Out of the Bottle. It describes a genetically-engineered microbe that had it been released as planned could theoretically have ended terrestrial plant life. Another one could have theoretically altered weather patterns. Theoretically means you can’t say it for sure but the dots are connectable.
It has the potential to do that.
That gives you a wake-up call. Many people in this world are calling for banning gain-of-function on potentially pandemic pathogens. That’s a good step in my opinion, but it’s ignoring biology. Genetically engineering even the common everyday microbes can cause a catastrophe as great as a pandemic. The film gives an example. One of my jobs is to wake people up to the dangers and we’ve got that now.
Another one is to craft the solutions. I’ve been doing this GMO stuff for 27 years. The solution there was to create a tipping point of consumer rejection, where you get a small percentage of the population saying, “We don’t want GMOs.” It tips the scales and prevents the massive takeover of GMOs. Monsanto wanted 100% of all commercial seeds genetically engineered. It’s patented by now. There’s been about twelve and we were involved in doing that.
In this case, we need national laws and international treaties. We have a program to create a global movement to do that. It’s not just the movement saying, “No genetically engineered microbes released.” It’s a movement of movements. Healthcare practitioners who know the importance of the microbe get on board. Regenerative agriculture that relies on the microbes in the soil gets on board.
For the climate change activists that require carbon drawn down into the soil get on board. Environmentalists, ocean preservationists, and spiritual organizations that think GMO means god move over are the groups that we are going to be rallying and inoculating in popular culture some of the information we talked about. Inoculating in academia much more precise and in-depth analyses of what could go wrong, and taking all of that energy and focusing it on governments for regulations, new laws, and new treaties.
We are in a hurry for obvious reasons. We would like to invite people. When you go to ResponsibleTechnology.org and look at Don’t Let the Gene Out of the Bottle, you can also watch the six-minute animated film 7 Reasons Why Gene Editing is Dangerous and Unpredictable. Corinna, there is one point here because if I fail to mention this which I’ve done too many times, then we’re risking our success. We absolutely need monetary support right now to get this done. It was so much cheaper to focus on consumer choice.
We could do it for a few hundred thousand dollars a year and have so much influence around the world. My books were bestsellers. The films we created Secret Ingredients and others were seen by millions of people. Here, that’s not good enough. If people are concerned about this, please make a recurring donation to our nonprofit and help us. Also, spread the word. Sign up for our newsletter. Share what we have with others because we’re in a situation that’s pretty urgent. We’ve hit this time in human civilization where we need to make wise choices and not simply allow Bayer and Monsanto to make the choices for us.Humanity has reached a time in civilization where we need to make wise choices and simply not allow corporate giants to make the choices for us. Click To Tweet
I’ve had a personal experience with geneticists. I even used to live with one in San Carlos who worked for Genentech. The reality is each of them is incentivized to develop more patents for the master company they work for. They’re not all entrepreneurs sitting in the CEO seat. It could be a cauldron full of people who are microbiologists sitting here working on the next big thing. In this case, my roommate was working on a technology to make the skin of fruits more permeable.
How has that been implemented? How has that been used? Also, a new way to make vitamin C and vitamin C is used in so many things. Each of these creates huge profit centers. The reality is that now, these bags of fruits are used in all sorts of things to put more pesticides in our environment, to genetically engineer things, and different foods that might find their way onto your plate. In addition to going to your site, I want to know how you personally are making the wiser choices in your daily life to limit your exposure to genetically-engineered bacteria, foods, etc. so that our audience can learn how to stay away from as much of the scary stuff as possible in their personal lives.
We recommend eating organic and there’s a reason. It used to be that I say, “Eat non-GMO if you can’t eat organic because then you also avoid these toxic chemicals.” I then learned that Monsanto was encouraging farmers to spray Roundup not just on the Roundup Ready crops, but on the grains and the beans. Also, in orchards on the ground and vineyards on the ground.
Roundup, which I had studied for many years, turned out to be incredibly nasty. It is linked to these diseases we’re talking about and does foundational damage to human health. I realized that the way to avoid GMOs and Roundup was not to just eat non-GMO because if you eat a bowl of oatmeal, oats are sprayed before harvest with glyphosate-based herbicides all over North America.
I was under the impression that if they were sprayed with glyphosate, they had to be labeled as GMO or that they couldn’t be labeled as non-GMO, and you’re telling us that’s not the case.
It’s not the case for sure. Oats are always non-GMO. There are no genetically engineered oats. It can have the non-GMO project verified butterfly, but it could be swimming in glyphosate like mung beans, chickpeas, lentils, and wheat.
There are USDA organic.
Organic has now allowed either GMOs around it. If you go to ResponsibleTechnology.org, we have a database of which foods have been tested with the levels of glyphosate. You’ll see organic, and almost every case, has either zero or just a tiny amount because it’s in the rain and the air so it can’t be zero in all places. If you can’t eat organic, at least avoid GMOs and avoid those foods that have high levels of glyphosate. We have a list of GMOs. We have a list of foods with high levels of glyphosate. If you can’t eat organic, you can use that information to navigate.
I appreciate your time in helping us understand that. I did get into this whole glyphosate story quite deeply on the Nutrition Without Compromise show. Any other silver lining that you can share so perhaps we can lend on a more hopeful note?
We know that individuals who have health issues and sometimes the most serious health issues with the gravest prognoses will hear that prognosis or diagnosis and reevaluate their actions, even their thinking, their relationships, and their lifestyle, and that prognosis becomes a blessing. Everything in their lives after that change is a better life. Often, that can change the nature of the problem altogether.
I believe that human consciousness is not linear or local, but can act in an interactive systematic way. As we’ve seen in history even more quickly, rapid escalation of new ideas, new frames, new things that we accommodate, and new relationships. I think that this particular threat is unique and that a single person has the potential to damage all living beings in future generations.
There’s a level of potential harm in this technology that goes beyond anything we’ve seen and it creates this sense of, “We need to do something.” It can inspire a sense of, “We need to protect microbes. We need to protect the gene pool. We need to protect nature.” In that case, we are entering a new relationship. Now, that we have the ability to easily destroy on purpose or by accident, we now have an urgency to protect and to do it not only individually but to do it as a species.
We can’t be leaky with our treaties. We can’t say, “All these countries, except these three.” It’s got to be a different viewpoint in terms of humanity and nature. That is something that will naturally be generated when this threat becomes widely known by a critical number of people all saying the same, “We need to protect nature now.” In that sense when enough people line up with that urgent knowing, like a certain number of iron filings lining up can create a magnet to the whole, we’re going to see a shift in collective consciousness. That attitude of protecting nature become commonplace not just with GMOs.
We’ve seen this so often especially with social media where something is so obscure and rejected, then all of a sudden, it becomes so obvious like, “Of course,” but it took a certain number of people to get us to the “of course.” That’s what we’re doing getting to the “of course” now that we have hit this time where we can completely end biological evolution as we know it. We need to steward biology and the planet, and protect it for future generations. That is a huge silver lining.
It’s interesting that the pandemic timing is also a weird silver lining because it has alerted everyone that microbes can travel, mutate, and wreak havoc. It has alerted everyone that genetic engineering in labs can create pathogens that can wreak havoc. Now we’re adding a little bit more saying, “Any microbe should be protected from being released or it might wreak havoc.” We’re on the precipice of getting what we need and the ripple effect could be greater in all relations between humans and nature.
I think those are marvelous closing words on your part, Jeffrey. I do want to say and I’m making it real for people here. I personally have chosen to never eat an Impossible Burger because I couldn’t believe that it was a regenerative product. I couldn’t believe that it was better than eating regeneratively farmed steak, for example. What it has proven is that they are not reporting on a lot of their carbon measures and that the product itself is not better for the environment.
As you just learned here, it also has genetically engineered components that could also wreak havoc on a system. Certain people need to hear this more than once. A food that is engineered to look like another food probably doesn’t retain all of that naturally that we might seek to consume if you’re looking at the foodscape. As we are talking about it and as we’re closing here, Jeffrey, it is so much bigger than that because if we cannot allow nature to control a little bit of itself, then we’re going to end up dealing with repercussions of it in a way that we can’t even foresee now.
We might be able to depict it in the world of science fiction. This is because of the Soil & Health Forum, Starhawk presented and talked about permaculture. I hadn’t thought about her book, The Fifth Sacred Thing for 30 years. It was over 30 years old. I read it when I was in high school. I went back and reread it. How much of that book was prescience and almost predictive? It was predictive of some of the future that we’ve landed in. In that book, she depicted a world in which we might live in 2048.
I feel like that book still stands as a warning for what could come if we do not take more control of building responsible technologies that can help people and the planet thrive. This is a very big story. I personally am going to make a donation on a recurring basis to your work because I believe in this very thing. I live and work in the natural products industry. I am a climate activist and I put this show out there for everyone to invite you to care more about issues that matter so we can create a better world.
This is me standing behind the ethos of that show. I stand with Jeffrey. I am a full believer that GMOs need to be avoided and there is no way that I’m changing that perspective given all of the research that I’ve read and everything that Jeffrey shared here. I am going to go ahead and wrap this show up for the day. You’ve spent over an hour with me. I so appreciate it, Jeffrey. Do you have any other closing words?
I loved how you welcomed the do-gooders. People say, “How did I get into this?” I said, “I was a chronic do-gooder and then I learned about the incredible dangers, the A-plus urgency of GMOs in that it can affect all living beings and all future generations.” I was just going to help out a little 27 years ago. I don’t have a background in science. I’m not a scientist but having some skills to bring to the table, we ended up having a huge impact.
If people are feeling a whisper inside to step up, my slogan is, “Think huge.” Thinking big is so last century. We have huge issues and when you step up to take responsibility in a big way, the support that comes from others and from nature herself is remarkable. It’s like an advanced technique for personal evolution as you focus on the evolution of all of us.
Thank you, Jeffrey.
To learn more about Jeffrey Smith and his important work with the Institute for Responsible Technology, please visit their website ResponsibleTechnology.org. You can also sign up for the Care More Be Better newsletter. When you do, you will receive your Five-Step Guide to Help Organize Your Activist Efforts, including nature and sustainability notes that will help you on your journey. If you loved this episode, please subscribe and set that bell to notify so that you are alerted when new episodes drop.
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- Jeffrey Smith – LinkedIn
- Soil & Health Forum
- Conscious Foods
- Simen Saetre -The Consequences Of Farmed Salmon With Simen Sætre, Author of The New Fish
- The New Fish
- Four Fish
- Don’t Let the Gene Out of the Bottle
- 7 Reasons Why Gene Editing is Dangerous and Unpredictable
- Secret Ingredients
- The Fifth Sacred Thing
- Apple Podcasts – Care More Be Better
- Spotify – Care More Be Better