Seeds of Deception
Is Your Food Safe?
What the biotech industry doesn't want you to know
The explosive exposé Seeds of Deception reveals how industry manipulation and political collusion-not sound science-allow dangerous genetically engineered food into your daily diet. Company research is rigged, alarming evidence of health dangers is covered up, and intense political pressure applied.
Chapters read like adventure stories:
- Scientists were offered bribes or threatened. Evidence was stolen. Data was omitted or distorted.
- Government employees who complained were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired.
- Laboratory rats fed a GM crop developed stomach lesions and seven of the 40 died within two weeks. The crop was approved without further tests.
- When a top scientist tried to alert the public about his alarming discoveries, he lost his job and was silenced with threats of a lawsuit.
Read the actual internal memos by FDA scientists, warning of toxins, allergies, and new diseases-all ignored by their superiors, including a former attorney for Monsanto. Discover how industry studies are designed to avoid finding problems. Learn why the FDA withheld information from Congress after a genetically modified supplement killed nearly a hundred people and disabled thousands.
Eating such experimental food is gambling with your health. Find out how you can protect yourself and your family.
Jeffrey Smith is a master storyteller. His style captivates and charms, while his meticulously documented facts leave no doubt about a massive injustice.
Foreword to UK Edition of Seeds of Deception, by Jeffrey Smith
By Michael Meacher
This is a brilliant book which combines shrewd dissection of the true nature of GM technology, a devastating critique of the health and environmental hazards of GM crops, and scarifying examples of the manipulation of both science and the media by the biotech industry.
Despite the British Government's GM Nation Debate in mid-2003, the level of understanding of GM remains alarmingly low in the UK. This book should be compulsory reading, not only for the general public, but for the decision-makers even more so who have never been exposed to systematic analysis of the problems created by GM.
What is so exciting about this book is that it is no dry text of scientific exegesis - it positively fizzes with the human drama of the cabals and conspiracies behind the scenes which have littered the history of Big Biotech in its frantic efforts to get itself accepted. It is meticulously documented and powerfully written, somewhere between a documentary and a thriller.
It reveals above all that GM is not some arcane issue about science or technology - it is ultimately about power. There are no consumer benefits from GM crops, the alleged benefits to farmers are deeply disputed, environmental and health testing has never been carried out, non-GM farmers are being put seriously at risk. So why is GM being pressed at all? The answer, set out painstakingly and frighteningly in this book, tells us a great deal about how power is exercised today - funding political parties and key individuals, networking around opinion-formers and decision-makers, and fixing strategic job swaps between the biotech industry and Government. And this is not just conjecture; plenty of examples are given which illustrate how secretive and malign these influences are.
The main area of cover-up is undoubtedly the GM effects on health. It is a staggering fact that there have been virtually no clinical or biochemical tests of the impacts of eating GM foods on human health. Jeffrey Smith sets out, like a detective story, the unravelling of the L-tryptophan fiasco, the StarLink corn allergy mishap, and the cauliflower mosaic virus promoter hazard, as well as a host of other health risks, both predicted and unpredictable.
But the kernel of the book is the commercialization of politics and the politicisation of science. For those who still believe the constitutional fantasy that governments act in accordance with their manifesto in the general interests of society, this book will come as a shocker. The exercise of power today is much more hard-nosed and ruthless, and the power-brokers are not the electorate, but Big Business. As a case study of this suborning of democratic accountability, Jeffrey Smith's account is an eye-opener. But most of all it is a call to arms, not only to prevent the contamination of the nation's food supply, but even more to tackle the poisoning of the nation's decision-making system by the under-cover wielding of economic and financial muscle and P.R. manipulativeness of Big Biotech.
On May 23, 2003, President Bush proposed an Initiative to End Hunger in Africa using genetically modified (GM) foods. He also blamed Europe's "unfounded, unscientific fears" of these foods for thwarting recovery efforts. Bush was convinced that GM foods held the key to greater yields, expanded U.S. exports, and a better world. His rhetoric was not new. It had been passed down from president to president, and delivered to the American people through regular news reports and industry advertisements.
The message was part of a master plan that had been crafted by corporations determined to control the world's food supply. This was made clear at a biotech industry conference in January 1999, where a representative from Arthur Anderson Consulting Group explained how his company had helped Monsanto create that plan. First, they asked Monsanto what their ideal future looked like in fifteen to twenty years. Monsanto executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson Consulting then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct.
Integral to the plan was Monsanto's influence in government, whose role was to promote the technology worldwide and to help get the foods into the marketplace quickly, before resistance could get in the way. A biotech consultant later said, "The hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender."
The anticipated pace of conquest was revealed by a conference speaker from another biotech company. He showed graphs projecting the year-by-year decrease of natural seeds, estimating that in five years, about 95 percent of all seeds would be genetically modified.
While some audience members were appalled at what they judged to be an arrogant and dangerous disrespect for nature, to the industry this was good business. Their attitude was illustrated in an excerpt from one of Monsanto's advertisements: "So you see, there really isn't much difference between foods made by Mother Nature and those made by man. What's artificial is the line drawn between them."
To implement their strategy, the biotech companies needed to control the seeds-so they went on a buying spree, taking possession of about 23 percent of the world's seed companies. Monsanto did achieve the dominant position, capturing 91 percent of the GM food market. But the industry has not met their projections of converting the natural seed supply. Citizens around the world, who do not share the industry's conviction that these foods are safe or better, have not "just sort of surrendered."
Widespread resistance to GM foods has resulted in a global showdown. U.S. exports of genetically modified corn and soy are down, and hungry African nations won't even accept the crops as food aid. Monsanto is faltering financially and is desperate to open new markets. The U.S. government is convinced that EU resistance is the primary obstacle and is determined to change that. On May 13, 2003, the U.S. filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization (WTO), charging that the European Union's restrictive policy on GM food violates international agreements.
On the day the WTO suit was filed, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick declared, "Overwhelming scientific research shows that biotech foods are safe and healthy." This has been industry's chant from the start. It is the key assumption at the basis of their master plan, the WTO challenge, and the president's campaign to end hunger. It is also, however, untrue.
The following chapters reveal that it was industry influence, not sound science, which allowed these foods onto the market. Moreover, if overwhelming scientific research suggests anything, it is that the foods should never have been approved.
Just as the magnitude of the industry's plan was breathtaking, so to are the distortions and cover-ups. While many of the stories in this book reveal government and corporate maneuvering worthy of an adventure novel, the impact of GM foods is personal. Most people in North America eat them at every meal. These chapters not only dismantle the U.S. position that the foods are safe, they inform you of the steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Chapter 1: A Lesson From Overseas
When eminent scientist Arpad Pusztai went public about his accidental discovery that genetically modified (GM) potatoes severely damage the immune system and organs of rats, he was suspended from the prestigious Scottish research institute where he had worked for thirty-five years. He was silenced with threats of a lawsuit while the Institute denied or distorted his findings. In the ensuing war over public opinion, biotech advocates tried to spin the science in favor of GM foods, but were thwarted at each attempt by leaked documents and compelling evidence. Pusztai, who describes this chapter as "the most thorough and accurate report on the topic," was ultimately vindicated when his potato study was published in the Lancet. His remains the only independent safety assessment in a peer-reviewed journal. It contrasts sharply with the handful of published industry studies, an analysis of which reveals how they were designed to avoid finding problems.
When Susan answered the door, she was startled to see several reporters standing in front of her. More were running from their cars in her direction and she could see other cars and TV news vans parking along her street.
"But you all know that we can't speak about what happened. We would be sued and-"1
"It's OK now," the reporter from Channel Four Television interrupted, waving a paper in front of her. "They've released your husband. He can talk to us."
Susan took the paper.
"Arpad, come here," she called to her husband.
Arpad Pusztai (pronounced: Are-pod Poos-tie), a distinguished looking man in his late sixties, was already on his way. As his wife showed him the document, the reporters slipped past them into the house. But Arpad didn't notice; he was staring at the paper his wife had just handed him.
He recognized the letterhead at once-The Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland. It was one of the world's leading nutritional institutes and his employer for the previous thirty-five years-until his sudden suspension seven months ago. And there it was, clearly spelled out. They had released their gag order. He could speak. The document was dated that same day, February 16, 1999. In fact, less than twenty minutes before, thirty reporters had sat in the Rowett Institute press conference listening to its director, Professor Phillip James, casually mention that the restrictions on Dr. Pusztai's speaking to the press had been lifted. Before James had finished his sentence, the reporters leaped for the door. They jumped into their cars and headed straight to the Pusztai's house on Ashley Park North, an address most were familiar with, having virtually camped out there seven months earlier. Now those thirty reporters, with TV cameras and tape recorders, were piled into the Pusztai's living room.
Arpad Pusztai read the document-twice. As he looked up, the reporters started asking him questions all at once. He smiled, and breathed more easily than he had in a long time. He had all but given up hope. Now he finally had the chance to share what he knew about the dangers of genetically engineered foods.
Chapter 2: What Could Go Wrong-A Partial List
Genetic engineers continually encounter unintended side effects -- plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die. This chapter describes the process of genetic engineering and twenty-one ways in which it can create unexpected, potentially serious problems.
New DNA chip technology has recently allowed scientists to monitor changes in DNA functioning when foreign genes are inserted. In one experiment, there was a staggering 5 percent disruption of gene expression. In other words, after a single foreign gene had been added through genetic engineering, one out of every twenty genes that were creating proteins either increased or decreased their output. According to Schubert, "while these types of unpredicted changes in gene expression are very real, they have not received much attention outside the community of the DNA chip users." He adds that, "there is currently no way to predict the resultant changes in protein synthesis."
Chapter 3: Spilled Milk
"The scientists' testimony before a Senate committee was like a scene from the conspiratorial television show The X-Files." This was how Canada's leading paper described the story of six Canadian government scientists who tried to stand up to pressure to approve Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH) which they believed was unsafe. The scientists were threatened by senior government officials, files were stolen from their locked file cabinets, Monsanto allegedly offered them a bribe of $1-2 million, and one senior official suddenly quit and disappeared, avoiding an appearance before a Parliamentary Committee. What was happening to the Canadian scientists in 1998 amounted to "re-runs" of what U.S. government scientists faced in the 1980s. When FDA scientists tried to blow the whistle on what was happening, they were stripped of responsibilities or fired. The FDA eventually approved rbGH on the basis of a research summary submitted by Monsanto that had distorted and deleted data about serious health effects, including cancer.
Chapter 4: Deadly Epidemic
In 1989, first dozens, then thousands fell sick. About one hundred people died, others struggled with paralysis, unbearable pain, and debilitating symptoms. Authorities eventually tracked its cause: contaminants produced in one company's genetically modified variety of the food supplement L-tryptophan. This chapter describes the evidence implicating genetic engineering as the cause of the epidemic and the efforts by industry and the FDA to divert the blame. Current regulations are so loose, they would allow that same type of deadly supplement onto the market today.
Chapter 5: Government By the Industry, For the Industry
According to Henry Miller, who was in charge of biotechnology issues at the FDA from 1979 to 1994, "the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do." This chapter reveals how industry influence has dictated policy, and how the FDA ignored the recommendations by their own scientists by approving GM foods without requiring safety tests.
Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture, describes the government's pro-biotech mind-set. "It was almost immoral to say that it wasn't good because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed the hungry and clothe the naked." He said, "You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view…. So I pretty much spouted the rhetoric… It was written into my speeches."
Chapter 6: Rolling the Dice With Allergies
An infant girl in England broke out in cold sores from drinking soymilk, but was tested as "not allergic" to normal soy. Was she allergic to something in GM soy instead? Perhaps it was the increased amount of the allergen-trypsin inhibitor-found in Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans? Could this also explain why soy allergies in the UK jumped by 50 percent after Roundup Ready soy was introduced? It's difficult to say, because although scientists have confirmed that deadly allergies can be transferred into foods via genetic engineering, there are no robust allergy tests done on GM foods. This was brought to the public's attention only after StarLink had been blamed for severe, potentially fatal allergic reactions. It took the FDA nearly a year to develop a test to see if StarLink was allergenic. The test was so poorly designed and unreliable, even the EPA rejected the results. New evidence suggests that other varieties of GM corn might also be allergenic.
At a business lunch with co-workers, 35-year-old Grace Booth dined on three chicken enchiladas, which she later recalled were very good. Within about fifteen minutes, however, something went wrong. She felt hot, itchy. Her lips swelled; she lost her voice and developed severe diarrhea. "I felt my chest getting tight, it was hard to breathe," recalled Booth. "She didn't know but she was going into shock," reported CBS news. "I thought, oh my God, what is happening to me? I felt like I was going to die." Her co-workers called an ambulance. Booth didn't know what had caused her nearly deadly allergic reaction. But this was September 2000 and within a few days she heard the news. A genetically modified corn product called StarLink, a potential allergen not approved for human consumption, was discovered in tacos, tortillas, and other corn products. More than 300 items were eventually recalled from the grocery store shelves in what was to become one of the world's biggest GM food debacles.
Chapter 7: Muscling the Media
The biotech industry uses its considerable resources to mold public opinion about genetically modified foods. In addition to promoting a one-sided image of the foods as safe and necessary, they stifle coverage about health and environmental damage. For example, a Fox TV station canceled a news series, a publisher canceled a book contract, scientific journals refused papers, and a printer shredded 14,000 magazines, all due to fear of lawsuits by Monsanto. Other stories presented in this chapter describe how the industry manipulates news that is reported. Also presented is the story of Ignacio Chapela, Ph.D., who claims that a senior Mexican official who did not want him to publish incriminating evidence about GMO contamination threatened him and his family.
Chapter 8: Changing Your Diet
This chapter describes all the sources of GM foods and explains how to remove them from your diet. It also provides additional motivation to make a change, describing how food can dramatically influence mood and behavior.
Chapter 9: What You Can Do
This chapter offers some practical ways to stay informed and to make a real change. One of these is to get this book into the hands of those who can make a difference. If you wish to buy several books at a discount, or make a donation that will put books into the hands of politicians, food industry executives, and others who can make a real difference, click here.
Books have power. Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle exposed the unsanitary conditions of the meat packing industry. After Teddy Roosevelt read the book on a long train trip, he pushed a bill through congress creating meat inspection. At a press conference, President Kennedy acknowledged the importance of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, which exposed the dangers of pesticides. Kennedy then had his scientific advisor look into the issue. The book was eventually "credited with beginning the American environmental movement, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the 1972 ban on DDT."
Officials around the world who are in charge of GM food policy need to be made aware of the foods' dangers and of how their approval was based on politics, not science. They have been subjected to relentless promotion by the biotech industry and bullying by the U.S. government to accept GM foods and crops. The revelations in this book might change that.
This section ties in recent events with a summary of some of the salient points from the book.
There are also the numerous ways in which industry researchers apparently doctored their studies to avoid finding problems with GM foods. For example, Aventis heated StarLink corn four times longer than standard before testing for intact protein; Monsanto fed mature animals diets with only one tenth of their protein derived from GM soy; researchers injected cows with one forty-seventh the amount of rbGH before testing the level of hormone in the milk and pasteurized milk 120 times longer than normal to see if the hormone was destroyed; and Monsanto used stronger acid and more than 1,250 times the amount of a digestive enzyme recommended by international standards to prove how quickly their protein degraded. Cows that got sick were dropped from Monsanto's rbGH studies, while cows that got pregnant before treatment were counted as support that the drug didn't interfere with fertility; differences in composition between Roundup Ready soy and natural soy were omitted from a published paper; antibody reactions by rats fed rbGH were ignored by the FDA; deaths from rats fed the FlavrSavr tomato remain unexplained; and Aventis substituted protein derived by bacteria instead of testing protein taken from StarLink, among others.
Between the Chapters: The Wisdom of Animals
Mice avoid eating GM foods when they have the chance, as do rats, cows, pigs, geese, elk, squirrels, and others. What do these animals know that we don't? At the end of most chapters is a one-page story describing how farmers, students, and scientists discovered that animals refuse to eat the same GM foods that we consume everyday.
The Washington Post reported that laboratory mice, usually happy to munch on tomatoes, turned their noses up at the genetically modified FlavrSavr tomato. Scientist Roger Salquist said of his tomato, "I gotta tell you, you can be Chef Boyardee and mice are still not going to like them." The mice were eventually force fed the tomato through gastric tubes and stomach washes. Several developed stomach lesions; seven of forty died within two weeks. The tomato was approved without further tests.