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What could destroy us is half-truths. Tragically, when a coalition of US non-profits proposed a framework for responsible regulation of gene editing, they got it only half right. What they got wrong could be devastating for health and the planet.
The article was authored by groups including the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. To the uninitiated, their words sounded reasonable and measured. After all, they correctly acknowledged that gene-edited products should not be considered as safe as conventional foods and crops. The process can lead to serious side effects.
But when it came time to spell out what regulators should actually do, the coalition played right into the hands of the biotech spin machine.
It’s important for people to understand these issues, otherwise a sensible-sounding policy could lead to disaster.
The Institute for Responsible Technology is working to protect you & the World from GMOs (and while we’re at it, Roundup®...) To find out exactly how we do this and to subscribe to our newsletter visit https://www.responsibletechnology.org/
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Notes for this week's Podcast
This week's Transcript
Speaker 1 (00:10):
I think I'm in livestream right now, everyone Jeffrey Smith. And I'm going to report on something which is pretty critical. There was an article in nature biotechnology. There was authored by these groups, the center for science and the public interest consumer Federation of America, environmental defense fund, national wildlife Federation. The nature Conservancy the world wildlife fund with help from the Keystone policy center. And they claimed to put forward a responsible protocol for governing regulating gene editing in agriculture and and food. And what's interesting is if you don't understand the history of what the biotech industry has done for regulation, you might read it and think, oh, this sounds reasonable. And I'm guessing that some of the well-wishing members of these in some cases, very respectable and a well-meaning organizations thought the same, but they'd been tricked. They'd been tricked in a bad way, in a way that's so bad that if their protocol gets put in place, it could be a disaster for the world and for all of their goals for protecting the environment.
Speaker 1 (01:48):
So this is a way that Monsanto's talking points. I used the word Santo is the biotech industry. We like to demonize Monsanto. And for good reason, they have been able to convince through the well-meaning smart, sounding, reasonable sounding words, and talking points to put forward this in one of the most pro GMO journals, nature biotechnology. Now I can tell you that I don't know much about some of these organizations center for science and the public interest. They've been basically a pro GMO house for decades. I can talk about them afterwards to give you a little bit more background, but if, if center for science and public interests speaks about GMOs, just assume they are puppeting Monsanto with a little bit of like saying, oh yeah, we need better regulations. And we're pro GMO and we're going to do everything we can to get GMOs out there.
Speaker 1 (02:47):
So it's kind of like a Trojan horse. I don't trust them at all for GMOs and for good reason. And I'll explain that at the end of the recording, there's also world wildlife fund. They got nine years ago by more than 80 organizations, they were on a route table for sustainable soy with Monsanto and Cargill and said that, yes, the genetically engineered soy grown in the Amazon can count as sustainable if it fulfills these needs. And you know, the rest of the world is saying, do you have any idea what genetically engineered soy does and why that's not that's sustainable? Evidently they didn't. And maybe they still don't, but I don't really know enough about, I mean, they were blasted by dare Spiegel and by the ecologists saying that they do more for corporations than for the environment, I don't really know about world wildlife fund.
Speaker 1 (03:40):
I'm just sharing what I picked up. I don't know if they're purposely missing, if they're purposely misinforming in this article or if they've been lied to because there's the liars and the lied to. And so I don't really know who the players are and how they line up. So this is not against these folks, not against these organizations, let's assume the best for a moment as I tend to do, but not for Monsanto. So here's the story about what they put out. First of all, there was some very good points that gene edited organisms art should not be considered as safe as their conventional counterparts. Now, for those that have been paying any attention to the off target effects and to the, the chromosomal rearrangements and the chromosomal mayhem of gene editing, it's like, duh, of course it's not the same, same level of risk.
Speaker 1 (04:44):
And yet many governments accepted the talking points of the biotech industry saying, oh no, it's, it's the same as conventional. So fortunately there's a breath of fresh air in this article that says, though, it's not no, it's interesting. The first time that any government said that GMOs in general had no greater risk than its conventional power counterparts was the United States government, the FDA in their official policy in May, 1992 written by Monsanto's former attorney, Michael Taylor in direct opposition and denial of the overwhelming consensus among the site, working at the FDA, they said, GMOs are different than dangerous and needed to be tested. But the FDA said no difference. Michael Taylor said no difference. And that became the U S official policy for GMOs. And now it's becoming the global policy, especially for gene editing the new genetic engineering technique that can change the structure of the genome without necessarily inserting foreign material into the genome.
Speaker 1 (05:55):
And they say, oh, because no foreign put in it, shouldn't be called a GMO. It's safe. It's predictable. It's not, it's very dangerous. And I speak to scientists all the time who enumerate along with peer reviewed, published research, why and how it is not. Okay. All right. So let's talk about what was a problem in this proposal for regulation. First of all, they mislabeling. And that's not the most important thing obviously, but I said there should be like an online register of all the things that were introduced fine. So let me, there's an online register that there's genetically engineered mushrooms. Now they're not necessarily on the market, but they were approved. They were ignored by the us government. And they said, we have no regulations over gene edited mushrooms. If you wanna introduce it fine. So maybe if this group gets its way, some online register would say approved, genetically modified mushrooms.
Speaker 1 (06:56):
Maybe it would say introduced, but it wouldn't necessarily say which mushroom. And if you want to eat mushrooms, you want to know if it's gene edited because you may get sick. If you eat the gene edited mushrooms, and you may not know why we've talked, talked about this before the process of gene editing can lead to side effects. That particular gene editing that they did was called a gene knockout. They knocked out a gene that produces the Browning when you slice the mushroom. So these are non Browning mushrooms. They can be sliced and lie about that. Their age. The problem is years after they were told by the USDA, we have no regulatory oversight over your gene edited mushrooms. So do what you want. It's not a government affair. An article was published in a peer review journal showing that one third of the time, gene knockouts don't work.
Speaker 1 (07:57):
At least in that one study with many, many examples, but not only do they not work, obviously something happened because it wasn't turning brown. So the PR the protein that's normally produced was not being produced. But sometimes when it doesn't work found out years later, it produces a trunk, okay, did protein a misshapen protein. So instead of knocking out the whole gene, some of the sequences remain when you produce a misshapen or a truncated protein, it can become an allergy gin or a toxin. So we may be, if it's ever introduced eating allergies in a mushroom that has never before had those proteins causing potential, Anna Filactic shock and death. And according to this group, it doesn't have to be labeled. It's ridiculous, stupid. Hello guys, wake up at least demand. Labeling my goodness. Second. Here's where here's where it gets technical. Here's where they're well, meaning schooled understanding of this issue gets them into trouble.
Speaker 1 (09:14):
The biotech industry wants to create a tiered risk assessment process so that if they think, oh, this one has no problem, it's very, very low risk. We don't need to do any research. Any safety studies, this one has less risk, maybe a little bit more risk. Okay. Minor research. This one has more risk. Okay. Medium research. They want to tear it. And they know, and we all know that if they do, they get to use their assumptions about what's considered to be low risk and they will front load assumptions of no risk. They might do a simple Petri dish example. This, it had no, no demonstration of problems here. So we don't need to elevate. I made it to animal feeding studies. Well, they're going to do their best to present their GMO as low risk. And if the government has signed off saying, okay, we don't need to do an evaluation because the company says it's low risk.
Speaker 1 (10:23):
That's a disaster. Similarly, document produced by these, this coalition said it should be a product based assessment, not a process based assessment. I'll refer to that in a specific example, it's seems to be logical that it doesn't matter how you produce the food or the cow or the crop. You just look at the food or the cow or the, whatever the crop is by itself. And you do an evaluation of that. Forget about how it was produced. If there's a problem in the product, it's a problem. If there's no problem in the product, there's no problem. The thing is when you know what can go wrong with gene editing, you realize it can create massive collateral damage in the deal. You can shatter the chromosome and cause random rearrangements. You can cause big deletions and additions, non target cuts. You can have DNA, right? DNA from bacteria or other animals in the Petri dish stuffed in and combined with the DNA of the organism you're creating. All of that can happen. You can have, even in the process of cloning that cell into a plan, massive, widespread collateral damage, hundreds or thousands of mutations up and down the DNA. But if you think, oh, this is an onion. And just look at these things with onions, or this is a potato, and this is how we evaluate a potato. You will not be paying any attention to these other things that could be deadly.
Speaker 1 (12:06):
And so the product assessment is a way of putting blinders on pretending that we don't know what could go wrong. And the perfect example is the hornless cow cattle. Certain cattle have big horns. And if you put them in confinements, they can hurt each other. So rather than cutting off the horn, genetic engineers use gene editing to block a gene that producers the horns. So they created a hornless cattle. Some of you have heard me speak about it because this was the poster child of the biotech industry. When they published their study, there was an accompanying article or letter saying this shows that there was no non-targeted effects when gene editing animals, therefore there's no need for regulations by the government. If we want to introduce gene edited animals, this proves no side effects. Well, a couple of years later, someone from the FDA had a software system.
Speaker 1 (13:21):
That was, I think she wanted to test to see if it does the proper sequencing and gives the right information. So she said, well, I have all this genomic information from these hornless cattle, which are obviously a perfect gene edit. Cause everyone says so published in a peer reviewed journal. Let's just take this information and stick it into the software program and what there's a problem. It wasn't a perfect gene edit when they stuck the gene editing equipment into the cell of the cattle. It has a little scissors and there's a little guide. The guide fines were in the DNA to cut the scissors cuts, but it's, it was stuck into the cows cell, the little circular DNA called a plasmid. And there was a bunch of bacteria in there with not with antibiotic resistant genes. There's a reason why it's there. It doesn't matter when gene edited scissors cuts the DNA.
Speaker 1 (14:34):
What happens is at that point, the scientist has no control. It's the cell's own repair mechanism that puts them together. Now it can, there can be disasters in the putting together. There can be mutations. There can be flipped things. There could be deletions and additions. But one thing that it seems to do is it grabs whatever material in the vicinity saying, well, this is a floating piece of DNA. This probably fits in there and stuffs it in there like spackle. It grabs the bacteria gene that were part of that plasma and stuck it into the cow DNA. So you have county and a county and a bacterial DNA, cow DNA. And that got cloned into every cell of these cattle. And those cattle were being bred in Brazil to become new hornless cattle herds, the FDA scientist inadvertently only accidentally happenstance serendipitously found out that every cell of these cows bodies had genes produced antibiotic resistant proteins.
Speaker 1 (15:43):
What this means is that if those genes transferred into pathogens in the cow's stomach, anywhere near the cow, create antibiotic resistant diseases, already responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year and on otherwise unnecessary amputees patients. In other words, these cows could be accidentally killing people. Now there's mice that have had retroviruses from cows, those stuck into their DNA because the serum used in the Petri dish can come from cows or goats. And so sometimes bovine and sometimes goat DNA get stuck in. Those are just some of the things that can happen as a result of the process. Coming back to this very unfortunate article written by some very well-known organizations, they're saying we should just do a product evaluation. If they did a product evaluation of the cows, they would pass. And these potentially deadly cows would be part of the global population of cows, possibly dominating cows in the future.
Speaker 1 (16:57):
And no one would be the wiser to their potential dangerous. No one would be the one wiser to the mushroom that might be creating disease, you know, toxicity, disease, health, allergic reactions. And so both of those things, the tiered approach to, to regulation and the product instead of the process approach are whenever you hear that run the other way or better yet, come with wisdom and say, you know, everything GMO is potentially dangerous. Every GMO has side effects that we are not able to predict in advance. And we now have the tools to evaluate what damage may have occurred in the DNA. What changes have occurred in the RNA? What differences in proteins may have been produced? What metabolites are out there that are different than the natural counterpart. These are cheap. Now these are easy. They're called Omix the microbiome, the polemics, the proteomics, the metabolome, the transcriptome, the genome.
Speaker 1 (18:04):
These are the Omix studies that independent scientists are saying we should be using those. So can tell the difference between a genetically modified organism or their gene edited or through other reasons and its natural counterpart. Everything should go through that. Everything before it gets put on the market needs animal feeding studies at this point, because they've proven that if you do compositional tests and Omex tests, you still might miss something that can kill a rat or a mouse that can kill a human. And just looking at the numbers is not going to protect us. So unfortunately, animal feeding studies at this point may be a necessary step to protect perfect humans who eat the products. According to independent scientists, who've looked at approvals that were done without animal studies, showing that they made assumptions of safety that can never be verified. So we're all being the Guinea pigs in the experiment. So all of that was missed by these nonprofit organizations. They also said that the product to developers should consider influence, you know, input from societal stakeholders on how gene editing could be applied to support a broad range of it's. That is really a weird sentence.
Speaker 1 (19:31):
See if you start off by saying, how can gene editing fix this problem or this problem or this problem you've already lost. If you start by saying, here are the problems, what are the best ways to approach it? So these guys are already down the biotech rabbit hole. The example we gave recently in an interview with some Asian directors of some nonprofits was about golden rice. I was talking to a woman who was a director of a group in Bangladesh, in Bangladesh. They've been able to counter vitamin D deficiency by teaching, by bringing gardening and gardens and seeds to vast numbers of people so that they get a complete and balanced diet, not just vitamin D, which is what, which is found in golden rice, but a whole range. But if you were to narrow and say, how can we use gene editing to increase value D you're eliminating actually the valid and proven ways to solve that problem.
Speaker 1 (20:39):
And it's sort of like coming along and saying, gene editing has fantastic benefits. We need to figure out how to make those available to society. Whoa, gene editing is very new, very dangerous prone to side effects. You genetically engineered something with gene editing. He released it in the environment. It can become a permanent part of the gene pool. And there's no recall once you create the first generation in the lab, the next generation may have changes that you didn't predict or anticipate. And now it's too late because now it's part of the world, especially with microbes, it'll travel around the world and meet sometimes very, very quickly. We don't need, we didn't need a pandemic to know that they can mutate. They can swap genes with other species. So now the gene that you put in for this particular use in this particular field or application is now in ecosystems around the world, possibly wreaking havoc and inside the ecosystem called the gut microbiome, possibly wreaking havoc for our health.
Speaker 1 (21:37):
So rather than assuming that gene editing is the, the, the new things since sliced bread, the best thing since sliced bread, it's important to step back and say, are we buying the, the assumption shins of the biotech industry that stand to make a lot of money. If we push this forward as the solution to all these things. And then they also say that GMOs, we want inclusive asked access to gene editing technologies and resources that can help drive societal benefits. This is sort of putting it on a pedestal saying it's important. We should all have access to it. Well, first of all core TIVA, which is the combination of Dow and DuPont, they own most of the, of the patents associated with gene editing for agricultural and food use. So good luck on making it easy access, but again, it's creating the wrong impression.
Speaker 1 (22:33):
It's giving the world the sense that this is a technology we can all benefit from. We need to have access to it. We need to create all sorts of things. Well, right now you can buy a gene editing kit on Amazon for $169 for one to $2,000. You can build your own kits, your own laboratories at home, and for the price of dinner each day, you can grab and buy a microbe and a catalog, not a microbe, but material in a, in a catalog and genetically engineer microbes and release them into the environment which could alter and damage the microbiome forever. You assume all the high school classes and biology classes and government labs and all these labs will be churning out. All sorts of gene edited GMOs. So it is going to have enormous access. But what that means is everything with DNA that's being targeted, could be ultimately replaced with a corrupted gene pool full of all those changes that we talked about, the off target effects, the massive collateral damage.
Speaker 1 (23:34):
And now we have little genetic time bombs released into the environment. Now is it so bad? Could be, if you go to protect nature now dot take a look at don't let the gene out of the bottle. A single genetically engineered microbe could theoretically have ended to restaurants, plant life. Had it been released two weeks late. I mean, they discovered a problem two weeks before it was supposed to be released. I know that could have altered weather patterns. It was supposed to be released. It was stopped by a court order. Yes, there are things that could be that bad. We don't know. And the document, this terrible, terrible document in nature, biotechnology gives a framework for a disaster. If this, as it stands, goes through and it's adopted, it's handing the keys to the kingdom, to the kingdoms, to nature's kingdoms, to the biotech industry who we know has captured regulatory agencies.
Speaker 1 (24:37):
We know that we don't have to pretend that the FDA and the EPA and the USDA are independent is no one paying attention to the Monsanto papers. No one paying attention to the fact that Michael Taylor Monsanto's former attorney overruled the scientists and the science to create a, we don't care. We don't need to look policy at the FDA and then became a well-paid Monsanto vice-president. And then went back to the FDA as the U S foods are. We know that these are captured organizations, so don't give them the ability to say, oh, this is low risk. We're not going to pay attention to the process. We're just going to treat a potato like a potato. Well, I'll tell you if you treat a potato like a potato, the person that created the genetically engineered potato, he worked first for Monsanto, then for simpler and for Simplot, he created the potato that doesn't turn brown. When sliced it's being used all over. After he retired, he looked at what he had done. He wrote an article. Cool Pandora's potato, the worst GMO page. After page, after page, you described how his creation could cause sickness, disease, possibly death.
Speaker 1 (25:56):
And if it were treated as a process and it was treated appropriately and carefully, it would never have been released. If it's treated in the way that this paper by these organizations has for you would have been released and it's it's already on the market. So I told you at the, at the beginning, I would tell you a little bit about my experience with center, for center, for science and the public interest. Let me see if I can reach anyone that's asking me any question we're about to hear me speak a little bit about, okay. Okay. If anyone has any comments or questions can now read them online, but I want to tell you about center for science and the public interest. Hi Joyce. Before I go back to the comments, alright, so center for science it's in the public interest. Greg Jaffe is the director of their biotech division.
Speaker 1 (27:01):
And I remember him showing up at a EPA hearing and I was testifying and he was testifying. I was like, who is this guy? He's totally missing the point. He has no knowledge of the health dangers, no knowledge of the environmental dangers. He's just asking for some gentle improvement in the regulations. He's taking everything at face value of the biotech industry. I didn't realize that he was quietly working on their behalf with the guise of being a independent non-profit that's supposedly highly respected by the media in Washington, DC quoted often. Well, he saw some companies labeling their products as non-GMO 20 years ago, and filed a complaint with the FDA that did an investigation saying companies shouldn't declare products as non-G. Why would he do that? Why would he do that? Because that was what the biotech industry wanted. No one just declare non-GMO. So they didn't have to have that economic disadvantage of selling GMOs.
Speaker 1 (28:05):
He had written an article about genetically engineered animals in which he praised the genetically engineered salmon. And then it was selected by the FTB FDA to be the citizens representative on the committee that evaluated Aqua bounties salmon. He wasn't representing consumers. He was a plant by the industry. Now can I say, yeah, he worked for Monsanto in the past. No, but he was working on behalf of their interest. If you look at this organization, you can see that they are basically one of the organizations that echoes talking points of the biotech industry year after year after year. And so they happen to be one of the authors. I don't know how, who was the author of this particular article, whether it was them that created it and got everyone to sign off. I don't understand the details and I'm not going to try and implicate any of these organizations in consciously messing it up.
Speaker 1 (29:14):
But I don't have any confidence in the center for science in the public interest. I've seen there posts. And there is if consciously devoid of any understanding of the dangers of GMOs, any side effects whatsoever it's as if either they're know about it. And they're consciously lying. It's like, I'll just put it as David Suzuki. Say it. If someone says there's no risks or dangers GMO foods, they're either very stupid or lying. We'll leave it at David Suzuki. All right. Let's see if there's any questions or comments. Well, if there is there, they haven't come through yet. So I'm going to leave it there and know why I actually, I want to give one more comment here.
Speaker 1 (30:05):
It is really important that we are aware of how dangerous gene editing can be and that we need to dictate policy based on unreal science to the regulatory agencies and not, and not let this, these Monsanto talking points stand. I want to thank my friends at GM watch. They wrote a beautiful article about analyzing this. I took a lot of what I said from them. I know all that stuff, but they organized it very well. Thank you, Claire. And I want to say that this is really an existential threat. If gene editing, especially if microbes becomes commonplace, we introduce a million new gene edited microbes in this generation, tens of thousands of other types of organisms with gene edited DNA. We're replacing nature with a technology whose number one most common result is surprise side effects. We need extremely tight regulation. Now that gene editing is so commonplace, so cheap and so easy.
Speaker 1 (31:16):
So I would, if you're a member of all these organizations and you're looking for them to represent you for biotech interests, you may not want to be looking to them for that purpose. You may want to tell them to watch this, to read the beautiful comments by GM watch and to publicly distance themselves from their article that they authored and say, we were wrong. We no longer call for a tiered assessment. We no longer call for product based. We demand labeling and we withdraw the article, the statements about the poll, the positive aspects, and of, of gene editing and that we, you know, giving the impression to the world that this is something we endorse as a technology in its current form. If they do that, that would be great. They would have my vote. So if you have any contact with these folks, if you're supportive of them, maybe they'll listen to you. Anyway, I'm Jeffrey Smith for Institute for responsible technology. Joyce. Yes. It's like trusting the Cornell Alliance for science. One of the front groups for Monsanto and company supported by bill gates. All right, everyone. Thank you all. And catch you next time. Safe eating.