An estimated 85 percent of all food consumed in the United States now contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—from the cereal you feed your children to the milk you put in your coffee to the sweet corn you chomp on in summer. But because there’s no labeling requirement, we don’t know which foods have GMOs and which don’t. We also have no hard facts about the possible health effects. In his new book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived The Public, public interest attorney Steve Druker takes the science community, the food industry, and the FDA to task for what he claims are their lax and irresponsible policies.
Parts of the interview:
First, the subversion of science has been much deeper than most people could imagine. There has been a consistent degradation of science and twisting of the truth on the part of numerous eminent scientists and scientific institutions on behalf of genetically engineered foods. The aggregate fraud to promote genetically engineered foods is by far the biggest fraud in the history of science. The corruption of government has also been very deep and multifaceted.
Probably the worst example occurred when the U.S. executive branch became convinced back in the mid 1980s, during the administration of President Reagan, that the biotechnology industry was going to be one of the main ways in which the U.S. economy would come out of its doldrums. A policy was adopted to promote the biotech industry without any new regulations. It was reported to be science-based, but scholars who studied it concluded it was not science based. It was framed and motivated by economic and political considerations. The FDA broke that law and lied about the facts in order to get GMOs on the market.
James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA, has called the dangers imputed to GMOs an imaginary monster.” He’s right, isn’t he?
He’s quite wrong, actually, because there have been risks, but from the beginning these risks have been systematically misrepresented by the mainstream scientific establishment in order to avoid regulation by governments and keep control of the research. But the risks have been well recognized, even by the FDA’s own scientists. They did a thorough study back in 1990-92, and the overwhelming conclusion was that genetic engineering differs from conventional breeding to a great degree, that the foods it generates entail different risks, and that none can be presumed safe until they have been demonstrated to be safe by rigorous scientific testing. But these tests have never been done.
I never use the term “frankenfood.” I’d rather not throw around names. The other side throws names around, branding people who have concerns about GMOs as “anti-science” or “Luddites.” Instead of talking about middle ground, I think it’s important to talk about the scientific ground and the evidence-based ground. Too many of the proponents of GMOs are not speaking as scientists, but as spin-doctors.
Recently, the tide seems to have turned towards an acceptance of GMOs. The UN, Bill Gates, and President Clinton have all come out in support. Even writer Michael Pollan, a well-known opponent, now believes there is no threat to human health. Surely, these people can’t all be wrong, can they?
They can be misled, yes. Based on the misrepresentations that continue to come from scientists, whom people like Michael Pollan and Bill Gates have a right to trust, I can understand why they think what they think. If you have the National Academy of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science consistently stating that these foods are safe why not believe them? But the National Academy of Sciences’ supposedly “gold standard” risk assessment is a joke. It’s internally self-contradictory, the logic is weak, and it overlooks several key facts. By contrast, a risk-assessment study released by the Royal Society of Canada in 2001, a few years before the National Academy of Science, came out with an opposite conclusion. It said that genetic engineering is different from traditional breeding, that you can’t assume the products are safe, and that the current regulatory system is extremely flawed. The scientific establishment here never refuted it. They’ve just ignored it. I challenge any fair thinking, good-willed scientist, or intelligent man or women, to read this book and decide for him or herself where the evidence lies—who has been telling the truth and has not been telling the truth.