Jeffery M. Smith is in my kitchen today, talking about the nitty-gritty behind GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and his adventure for weird comfort food.
Jeffery is an international best-selling author and filmmaker, and is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT). His first book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating, is the world's bestselling and #1 rated book on GMOs. His second, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, documents 65 health risks of the GM foods Americans eat every day.
Why is living organic important to you?
The honoring and nourishing of the soil, the healthier lifestyle of the farmers, and higher nutrient level and better taste in the food, are just some of the reasons why I love organic. But the overriding attribute for me is that the organic standards do not allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs have been linked to thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock; damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals; and thousands of toxic and allergic reactions to humans. Medical experts and organizations like the American Academy of Environmental Medicine urge all doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets to all patients. Concerns include infant mortality, sterility, smaller babies, immune reactions and damage, organ lesions, signs of toxicity, gastrointestinal disorders, and more.
In addition to the serious health issues, the self-propagating genetic pollution from GMOs is not reversible with current technology, and may outlast global warming and nuclear waste.
What was your favorite food growing up?
I grew up in New York, just north of the city, and there was nothing like a New York pizza. I ate my share of junk foods at home, but when it came to restaurants, pizza definitely topped my list for years.
What's your go-to comfort food now?
In the last seven years, I have traveled more than 160 days per year on every continent. I take great joy in trying local foods that reflect local cultures. I regularly ask my hosts, "What is the food that is specific to this region, that I can't get anywhere else?" So my comfort is in variety and adventure.
On that same note, I seek out "weird fruit." Fruit is like nature's candy, and I love trying tastes and textures that I've never had before. Durian is my current favorite.
What's the one thing in your kitchen you just couldn't live without?
My wife. I used to cook a lot years ago, but now I'm just plain driven by my work. When writing Genetic Roulette, for example, I worked seven days and five nights per week. My wife Andrea supports my work and lifestyle by handling meals, among other things. She's a great cook and I can't tell you how much I appreciate having downtime at mealtime.
What magazine, website, book, album, or product are you most obsessed with right now?
At this very moment, I am spending lots of time on our own website ResponsibleTechnology.org. My staff worked for more than seven months redesigning the site, which went live two weeks ago. Until this revision, we had been incrementally adding new studies, stories, reports, movies, audios, and such. Now I'm going through it, adding new sections that will help us to better support local and national anti-GMO activism, to generate a national non-GMO tidal wave.
What's the most important news story today that you think we all need to pay more attention to?
I think the news stories illustrating how consumer rejection of GMO products is moving the market are really sensational. They give us both hope and direction. This has occurred over the past few years with genetically modified bovine growth hormone, which has so far been kicked out of milk products from Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Dannon, Yoplait, and most U.S. dairies. Now we are seeing signs of a coming tipping point against all GMO brands. According to the Nielsen Survey, the fastest-growing store brand claim in 2009 was GMO-Free. It's now the fifth fastest of all health and wellness claims. Supermarket News predicted that 2010 will see an unprecedented upsurge in consumer concern about GMOs. And more than 600 retailers and manufacturers are celebrating October 2010 as Non-GMO Month.
Since GMOs offer no consumer benefits, we believe that as little as 5 percent of U.S. shoppers avoiding GM brands will be more than enough to create the tipping point, forcing GMOs out of the market altogether. This happened in Europe in 1999 (for direct GM ingredients, not GM animal feed).
The FDA's misguided attempt to fast-track GE salmon has inspired a flurry of unprecedented coverage in mainstream media. This greater attention will likely accelerate consumer education and rejection of all GMOs.
Where do you get your news?
On the GMO issue, I am on several Listserv's from around the world. The best is found at GMWatch.org. For general news, I like to follow the real stories found in alternative news sites and Listserv's. But I also look every day at the headline stories from a variety of mainstream sources, all posted on my home page, to see what the national and international media are covering. And when I get time, I enjoy watching The Daily Show. It's very entertaining.
For help finding healthier, non-GMO brands, see the IRT's free Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.