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The Center for Food Safety is fighting back against the awful Trump/Biden GMO policies. Jeffrey Smith interviews attorney Audrey Leonard about what’s at stake.
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Notes for this week's Podcast
This week's Transcript
Speaker 1: (00:07)
Hi everyone. My name is Jeffrey Smith with the Institute for responsible technology. And I have an attorney from one of my favorite organizations, the center for food safety. Oh my God. These guys have been rock stars and have, and my friend Andy Kimbrell, who's on the who's the head hunter. There has been doing GMO work before I have, and I've been doing it for 25 years. So he's old. We're here with RJ Leonard, and you're not that old, but you are in the, in the cockpit of a lawsuit going on, or you're going to take down the Biden, Trump GMO policy, you and what army you and the army of center for food safety. So what I want to ask you, Audrey right off the bat is what are you battling? What crazy new GMO policy was introduced in the last administration and its peers to be currently endorsed in this gender. And this administration tell us about what's there. So we can then understand what really needs to be there and how we can help
Speaker 2: (01:12)
You bet. So we are challenging the Trump administration's, um, new regulations for genetically engineered organisms. And those regulations basically regulate how those organisms can be tested, commercialized and released into the environment. So it's a big deal. It affects it should affect all genetically engineered organisms. But the, the issue with these regulations is that they basically new to the right regulations and USDA is getting out of the regulation business entirely with use. So they're, they're abdicating their duty to protect the environment, to protect public health and to protect, uh, United States agriculture from the harms of genetically engineered organisms.
Speaker 1: (01:58)
So the us has all USDA right now. Let me just set, set this up for people back in the early 1990s, the first Bush administration told the regulators to promote GMOs. And so they put Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney to be in charge of GMO policy for the FDA. Um, they had a very close, revolving door with the EPA and they actually told the, the FDA to promote GMOs as one of its requirements. And that actually was part of a PowerPoint presentation of an executive from the FDA for years. Um, and the USDA also promoting GMOs, but they divided the regulation among these three agencies without creating any new laws, because they didn't want Congress to step in. They want it to be a free ride for the biotech industry. So what was the, um, mandate for the USDA and what are they now changing in that original mandate?
Speaker 2: (02:55)
So USDA is in charge of the, the regulation of these organisms as they're developed. And so anything that's going to be a crop or plant, um, the, the developers, many of these are regulated by USDA. Whereas EPA is in charge of regulating the pesticides that are often used in conjunction with these GMOs. So these regulations have been in progress for about two decades. Um, ever since Congress enacted the plant protection act in 2000, which gave, you had CA a bit more authority, actually, a lot more important to regulate these organisms, because we have started learning about the harms and the different kinds of harms that they could cause. So the we'll call it, the PPA protection act basically is USDA authority to regulate for plant pests risks, as well as noxious feverish. I won't get into the weeds of what those two things mean, but basically the noxious weed risks are a much broader definition and that allows USTA to regulate a lot more harms.
Speaker 2: (04:02)
And unfortunately these new regulations do not incorporate that authority. So they basically are only using half of the authority that they're given under the statute that was enacted into 2000. So this two decades of regulation building and talking to stakeholders this whole time, USDA's main reason. And for implementing new regulations is to stay updated with this new and throughout the whole process, the whole prerogative was to implement this noxious weed authority. And there were three, we proposed rules. One was in 2008 and one was in 2017. Both of those two had written into the rule. They were planned to use this noxious weed authority into regulate for more harms and to be more protective of our heart, the harms that GMO genetically engineered organisms can create. So then in 2019, those former roles were both revoked and walked back in 2019. A new role comes out with no, you mentioned it noxious weed, but authority whatsoever, despite that being the entire point this whole time.
Speaker 2: (05:17)
So that's what we're dealing with, that we're dealing with and administration, and now a new administration that doesn't express any, any willingness to change or walk those back. And they're now in place. And that basically means that a ton of genetically engineered organisms are exempt from regulation altogether. The framework basically creates about four broad, broad categories of exceptions based on how the organism is created and what sort of techniques are used in that genetic engineering process and alarmingly on top of youth exemptions, developers are allowed to self determine whether their organism experiment is actually falls under the regulations or if it's exempt. So that means Fox is guarding the henhouse, right? You're getting to decide for yourself, well, am I regulated? Or, or am I just gonna continue as usual and not go through all the people?
Speaker 1: (06:21)
So this is taking what was originally arguably bad regulatory oversight and making it non-existent. So to give an idea, um, a few years ago, when a company wanted to get approval or wanted to bring out gene edited mushrooms, they use gene editing to knock out a gene that would normally produce a protein that turns the mushroom brown. When it's sliced, they said, certainly they don't need to get it approved by the FDA because the FDA already had its Michael Taylor approved a policy that to let companies like Monsanto and any biotech company determine if its foods are safe. There's a meaningless exercise called the voluntary consultation process. And the, and there's no sense. There's no indication that the mushroom participated in that it doesn't produce a pesticide. So the EPA doesn't have to look at it, which leaves only one body in the country to look at it.
Speaker 1: (07:21)
And that's the USDA. So they sent, they led her to the USDA saying, you don't really need to look at us, do you? And they said, well, we're now rolling narrowly evaluating using this plant protection or a noxious weed thing. And since you don't insert any viruses or bacteria DNA into your mushrooms, we can look the other way. We have no need to regulate you. So it was bad before they wrote a letter to the USDA, they got a letter back saying, we don't need to look at it. Now the company knows they don't even have to write a letter so they can actually introduce a gene, edited food into the marketplace without informing the FDA, EPA or USDA, which means consumers or Audrey or me. Because if we know we're going to get the word out and since there's no labeling requirements now for gene edited GMOs, they're part of the, the loophole there since no, there's no paperwork to submit it to the government, no requirement for labeling and anything. That's gene edited anyway, that doesn't introduce new items into it is completely exempt from any regulatory oversight. It means it is basically the wild west open season on DNA and the U S food system and the U S ecosystem, not just from us to rive GMOs, but any that are imported from other countries because there's no requirement to see if a mushroom from China has been gene edited or genetically engineered. And so now it is an explicit abdication. Am I, am I right here?
Speaker 2: (09:18)
Yeah, you're right on track. And it's important for us to, with the on the legal side of things is that there is no paper trail USDA. Isn't making the decision here and they're not saying they're not writing the letter to say, okay, you're not regulated because that's where we come in. And someone, anyone could challenge the, the approval, basically the deregulation of something. But if there's no decision to be made, there's no challenge.
Speaker 1: (09:44)
This is really actually, I think they had you in mind when they created this. I think they had CFS in mind. I remember, uh, secretary of Phil's SAC, uh, was introduced to Andy Kimbrell, uh, the executive director and Villsac turns to him and says, do you guys ever lose? Cause you guys have been V you guys have been having so many victories against the us government. That's been violating laws. One after the other for years, he knew who you were. He knew how successful you've been. And part of the strategies of the manipulations by the regulatory authorities is to avoid being sued by you. And in many cases by Steve Drucker, when he was looking about to appeal his, uh, epic lawsuit from 1998, they have been able to sort of create a whole legal strategy so that you guys can't challenge their illegal behavior, but you are challenging their legal behavior. You're challenging this whole thing. Tell us about the current lawsuit.
Speaker 2: (10:47)
So we're challenging it, uh, from a programmatic side. So they came out with basically an environmental analysis of the, the programmatic effects of this big rule change. And they're, they're saying that babies can't, can't look into the individual approvals in this programmatic chat change because it's, those changes are going to be happening at the individual product levels. Um, and that creates a big problem for judicial transparency and for people being able to know what's going on. So yeah, it's a, it's a big mess and we're, we're challenging it from that aspect. So we have constitutional challenge that talks about that. Um, unlawful some delegation of authority that was given to USDA by Congress, and I'm almost Yaz giving that authority to developers. So we're challenging that, and we're also challenging it under the endangered species act because there's absolutely no consultation for this programmatic change. Um, and they're basically kicking the can down the road and saying that he's individual approvals may have them. Well, they're not going to be approvals if you're exempt because somebody determines themselves to be exempt. And the same goes for the national environmental policy act. So anything like that, it's just, it's not going to happen. And, and we're just, we have to challenge it now to get better regulations and to force the agency to be more thoughtful about what they're doing.
Speaker 1: (12:19)
So you're challenging it on a constitutional basis because Congress created some laws and originally the USDA said, okay, this is part of the regulatory framework. We'll use those laws. They're not work designed for GMOs in the first place, but we'll use them because we don't want noxious weeds. We don't want pests. And we're responsible for that. It's our job that was mandated. So we'll just stuff GMOs in there. And then now it's like, you know, we're looking the other way, squirrel take the GMOs out. And you're saying, no, no, we don't actually need to do that because it's not really a noxious weed or a pest, willing to kiss case a noxious weed. Then you're doing constitutionally saying, Hey, Congress gave you the responsibility and you're advocating and saying, it's up to the company. So that's the constitutional, the one for the endangered species. It requires the USDA. It mandates the USDA to look at impacts of new organisms on endangered species. And they say, no, no, no, no. We don't have to look at that either. They're not even going to discuss it. And then NEPA,
Speaker 2: (13:20)
They're saying, not yet, they're saying we'll do it later at digital levels, these individual products, but these products are never going to make it to USDA. They're never going to know about them
Speaker 1: (13:30)
And NEPA, and you're doing it against the national environmental protection act as well. You're assuming with that. And also,
Speaker 2: (13:37)
Yes, because the analysis that they did for that was inadequate as well. So
Speaker 1: (13:42)
That requires a Hey environmental impact statement or assessment that they just simply abdicated.
Speaker 2: (13:50)
Well, they did it at the programmatic level, but it does not get into the issues that we know the real harms of genetically modify it. Or,
Speaker 1: (13:57)
Ah, this is what I call the broad brush stroke. It's like when the biotech industry did not want anyone to read my books about GMOs, where I had like the second book, 1,134 and notes showing clearly that they had lied about their product. There was a broad brush stroke saying, oh, there's no science in the book. You can ignore it. And it's like, they don't look the other way squirrel. And so they say, oh, this was part of the, by the way, I want to give a bigger context. Audrey, we have been very successful as a movement CFS Institute for responsible technology or going to consumers association, um, others, us right to know, um, uh, GMO-free USA we've been in right, getting the information out to the world. And we have been creating a lot of pushback by consumers against GMOs, rightfully because they're dangerous.
Speaker 1: (14:51)
We have made that clear. Um, and 51% of the us population, 48% of the global population believe that GMO foods are not safe. So years ago, I think it was in Bulgaria. There was a big biotech conference all over the world and they determined that their number one goal was to convince governments, not to consider gene editing GMOs and to convince consumers the same. And so they have been, uh, pitching a fiercely pitched battles, being waged all over the world to convince governments, to avoid any type of regulation on gene edited GMOs. Now you're telling me that it's not the gene, not just the gene edited GMOs that were being looked the other way, but essentially even the old style gene guns smashing take a gene from bacteria viruses, put it into soybeans, make it available in the USDS as well. It's not our area. And the FTS is not our area and the, and the USDA and the EPA says not our area. And so all of this means that it's a complete application, which makes it easy for massive introduction of gene edited GMOs into the environment and food supply.
Speaker 2: (16:11)
Yep. And one of these exemptions in particular is basically saying that if you could produce something through conventional breeding and you happen to breeze it through, um, genetically engineering engineering, its DNA, then it's not covered. However, that has nothing to do with the risk that whatever you're producing creates. And we all know that these DNA technologies can produce unintended results and unexpected results. And just because you can make something through conventional breeding, doesn't make it automatically, okay, it's safe. There's no science behind that. There's no scientific basis that
Speaker 1: (16:47)
I have not. This is new information to me, Andrea, I had not known that some brain cell at the USDA created this, this incredibly inept scientific argument. I want to break this down here. For example, you can take a certain wide crosses potatoes for example, and end up with a, with a toxin and they test for those toxins, but you can create something that's toxic for human beings in those potatoes. And then you can also genetically engineer a gene that will produce that toxin. I don't know why you do it, but you can. And you could literally say, well, we've produced this through natural means, so we don't need to test. We don't need to do any, any regulations whatsoever, even though the natural method is known as is toxic. That's one way. So it's just simply saying we don't need to review it because it can be done naturally.
Speaker 1: (17:46)
But what the bigger ridiculousness is is that there are three decades of data showing that the process of genetic engineering causes massive collateral damage in the DNA. Insertional mutagenesis, Soma clonal variation don't get me started, but these things can create higher levels of existing allergens, toxins, or carcinogens or antinutrients or new ones. And there's no requirement for companies to test to see if those have changed. So after Monsanto's corn was on, the environment was on the, uh, on the marketplace. They found that it produces high levels or produces gamma. Ezine a known allergen, which was not found in the natural corn after the Roundup ready corn was on the market. They found that it produced high levels of pewter seen in cadaveric gene that are responsible not only for the foul smell of running dead bodies, but are also linked to cancer and to histamine and allergic reactions.
Speaker 1: (18:50)
All of these are not required to be looked at, but the result of the process, now they're trying to say, well, gene editing is safe and easy. Gene editing has all these problems and more. And so they're entirely unscientific saying we don't need to look at it. We don't need to require the companies to even evaluate whether their gene edited outcome is safe. And coming back to that mushroom Audrey, they used the knockout technique with gene editing that everyone knew works. Everyone knows that if you knock out a gene in a certain way, you know, simply silence the DRI gene and nothing else will be a problem will be an issue two or three years later, they found that one-third of knockouts don't work. And some of those non-working knockouts will produce truncated, proteins and truncated proteins can cause allergens. Fortunately, the mushrooms we don't think are on the marketplace yet, but I'm not sure we would know if it was, they probably advertise it. You can slice it without brand new Browning since that's the whole purpose of it. All right, what are we missing? Audrey, fill us in.
Speaker 2: (20:02)
So, and getting back to the thyroid cell scientific basis, and that we're also saying that this is a violation of a plant protection act because the plant protection act requires that USDA make these decisions based on sound science. And this is absolutely not sound science. So that's one of our big claims as well. So in addition to these exemptions and your self determinations team, we see also a truncated version of the review of organisms that do get regulated. So for those, um, we're seeing less data requirements and basically just lots of review in general.
Speaker 1: (20:41)
You know, I, I think what we should do, not only Sue them, but we should go to Congress and get new laws passed and actually tie their hands so that they actually really do science now to give you an idea of the politics here, that the FDA is basically captured by the companies that it regulates. Um, it was captured by Michael Taylor and Monsanto back in the nineties, the EPA we know is captured by the companies that regulates the Roundup trials, made it clear that Monsanto had its lapdogs in the EPA, but of all of those three, the FDA, the EPA and the USDA, the USDA has been the most pro GMO with Villsac, um, as the biotech governor of the year, um, when he was a governor of Iowa where I lived and then also Sonny Perdue was the biotech governor of the earth think twice.
Speaker 1: (21:39)
And I think they'll sack. Hopefully he's going to, he's doing better now. I haven't checked in with him. Some, I have some people I respect that respect him too. So I'm hoping that he steps up and does the right thing here. But, um, traditionally it has been the USDA. That's been basically as if the enforcement wing of the biotech industry. So when we were trying to get GMOs labeled the denying Americans, the right to know, act the dark act, which is how we described it by Congress, gave the ability to create labeling laws to the USDA, the FDA wasn't wasn't liberal enough, even though it hadn't done anything, they gave it to the USDA. I created the most Monsanto friendly, ridiculous labeling law. Are you guys sewing them for that? I hope good. Tell us, tell us about that.
Speaker 2: (22:32)
Yeah, so that one, we are basically suing the agency to get clear on package labeling for all GI foods. Um, and that needs to be accessible to everyone. So right now they're QR codes, but those aren't accessible to people that don't have smartphones or can't afford data or don't have reliable internet access. Um, and they don't cover all GI foods because they currently exempt basically highly refined GMO products that come from GMO crops where, uh, they're, they're saying that because of these, you can't detect that they're made with GMO products that they don't have to label them. Science is getting better and better. We're starting to be able to do that. It doesn't matter. People care that they're produced with GMO products.
Speaker 1: (23:19)
Yeah. This means that if it means, if you have a hundred percent genetically engineered soy bean soybean oil, it wouldn't need to be labeled. If you have, if you bought high-fructose corn syrup, a hundred percent from GM corn, wouldn't have to be labeled because you can't test for the DNA or protein in the final product, you can have other poisons because of the genetic engineering process. You may want to be against it philosophically, you may not want the Roundup on it, but they doesn't have to be labeled according to this ridiculous law. Thank you for suing them on our behalf, by the way, they also don't want people to be stigmatized against GMO's. And so they're not using the word GMO. They said it's bee, you know, bee. What is bee mean?
Speaker 2: (24:06)
Okay, hold on. Let's just keep changing the name. And nobody will be able to keep up
Speaker 1: (24:10)
Engineered. We did a, a on our Facebook page where this is broadcast, that we did a contest to see, um, what you should be called, what it should stand for. And all of these people have these great ideas, but the winner was buy elsewhere. So if you see bee on a, on a package buy elsewhere, cause that's them trying to get away with saying, we know we can, we have genetically engineered stuff, but we don't want you to know about it. So we're using this acronym that no one's ever heard of. Alright, next, we have another issue. That's on the horizon. That's scary. And that's salmon, genetically engineered salmon. I mean, why don't you tell us what's going on? I know you guys have a lawsuit on that.
Speaker 2: (24:58)
So we have already challenged the first iteration of that. Um, the company is AquaBounty. They're genetically engineering salmon to be produced, uh, basically to grow faster and be reduced in higher quantities. And they actually just announced a new facility for produce more and a larger facility in Ohio. And we're still waiting on FDA's new assessment to find out the risks of these facilities to endangered CMN and other wild species.
Speaker 1: (25:30)
So you guys actually won a judgment at one point recently, but that didn't stop it. Huh?
Speaker 2: (25:38)
So that's what we're still waiting on. We won basically saying the FDA needs to go back and redo that assessment and FDA are still waiting on that.
Speaker 1: (25:46)
So the FDA is very pro GMO. It's actually, as we said, it's part of their explicit mandate is to promote GMOs. And so they put together a committee to evaluate the salmon with the most pro GMO people you could imagine. And their consumer representative from the so-called center for science and the public interest, which is a captured organization by the, by all these groups, this guy was known to be pro GMO salmon and had written an article of in favor of it, this group that was so in favor of GMO salmon, looked at the research by AquaBounty and still could not approve it without sending it back saying, this is actually kind of ridiculous. You need to redo it. I mean, test the safety testing, um, use six fish. And it was so sorts of small N her size that even a 20% increase in one dangerous substance or reaction, a 50% increase in another was not statistically significant.
Speaker 1: (26:54)
And so they were able to avoid the possibility that it increases IGF one, which is linked to cancer. Then it increases growth hormone, which is linked to all sorts of other problems. And even, and it was linked to higher levels of reactivity in the blood of people who are reactive to salmon. All of that was tested. All of that had alarming results, but they set it up so that it wasn't statistically significant so that it could be, I don't see anything. I don't hear anything. So it was so bad. And yet the company now, because of the, uh, in Alaska, they, they, they didn't want it to mess up the wild Alaska salmon trade. So they forced labeling of salmon in stores, but not in restaurants or in catering. And so this AquaBounty salmon is going to be sold in restaurants and in catered facilities, like it had been in Canada without any labeling. So if you happen to be allergic to salmon and you get a reaction or you happen to, you won't know, so is this, I don't think you're suing on that point on that point, because that's just an outrageous point that among millions of outrageous points in this world about GMOs, okay, we got the salmon, we got the labeling pursuing you're suing for the USDA, has to actually be real and look at the science, any other news, Audrey,
Speaker 2: (28:25)
We're also in the middle of our challenge to glyphosate. And the big news there is that they are just announced that they're going to be one moving, like say as the active ingredient and residential use products. And that is basically, they're saying just to stave off the lawsuits that they've been hit with all these people that have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from exposure to glyphosate, however that still leaves agricultural use. So our farmers and farm workers are still at risk. Those are the people that are using it every day.
Speaker 1: (28:55)
Aren't and your lawsuit is against who for what's the purpose
Speaker 2: (29:00)
And it's against EPA for their, um, basically their interim registration review decision of the state. So there's a framework within our, our pesticide statute that requires EPA to go back and make sure every 15 years that pesticide still meets the standard about it's basically safe enough to have an environment safe, not for, to, you know, be touched by humans. And essentially they're still saying that debate in it. And
Speaker 1: (29:32)
Wow. So I think, you know that in the lawsuit, I like mentioning this because it's just so typical, Monsanto science don't bathe in it. It gets absorbed with the skin. We know from the doc, from the documents and testimony from a lawsuit, 10% of the, of the glyphosate will end up in your skin, according to cadaver studies, which is 3.3 times greater than the legal limit, but they never told the EPA that they hid that information, what I consider illegally. And then they took human cadaver skin, baked it in an oven, then froze it, then applied Roundup, and very little was absorbed to this leather like human structure. And they declared, oh, there's hardly any absorption and gave that data to the EPA again, which I would think would be illegal. And then, uh, it's if we think about there, w interim reregistration also from the documents made public from a lawsuit, the person in charge of the cancer committee that said, there's no cancer here. Look, the other way was Jess Roland Monsanto's lapdog who was quietly working on behalf of Monsanto and said to them, I should get a medal. If I can convince this other us agency to not study Roundup and cancer, because Monsanto was scared that they would also find what the, who committee found that it is a probable human carcinogen anyway. So you get to try and clean up the dregs of the regulatory agent. How do you feel about that when, you know, I mean, how many years have you been doing this work?
Speaker 2: (31:06)
It's tough work. Uh, this is my first job out of law school. So I've been at CFS for a year now and just, just fully, fully submerged. Congratulations
Speaker 1: (31:17)
That this was a great first job. Um, did you expect to see this kind of activity on, on our government side?
Speaker 2: (31:27)
Sure. Yeah. I came into this. I knew that I went to school for environmental public interest and was going to be most of the time fighting the government. And that's what we're here doing well. Congratulations.
Speaker 1: (31:39)
You got, you landed in one of the great, the great law groups of the world center for food. Safety is fantastic. Um, and you guys are doing such great work.
Speaker 2: (31:51)
We are independent vendor [email protected] You can join our email list. If you signed up for updates. We also have a blog on this, on the GMO regulations, which are called the poetry 40 regulations. Um, and that's on our medium site as well. And we're on Instagram at center for food safety, as well as Facebook.
Speaker 1: (32:12)
I was just going to ask you that. Thank you for that. See, I have to ask people above 40 years old to do all that, but you already know. All right, thank you, everyone. We have heard from Audrey about the amazing work it's trying to combat the ridiculous work of the pro GM forces in the U S government. The, as you heard, it was in 2019 and the Trump administration where they decided just lop off from the USDA's responsibilities, most of the way that it looks in GMOs. So that administration was the perpetrator. And then the enabler was this administration. Now, is it a Republican? Is it a connect? Is it a Democrat thing? Actually you're shaking your head. No, I'm glad you said that. It is since the Reagan administration, every administration has been walking lockstep with the biotech industry, doing its bidding, even us aid agency for international development. Also the state department, just look at those WikiLeaks when you'll know, obviously the regulatory agencies and at many times Congress, but we have some nice developments which I'll be sharing in future Facebook lives, where there's some members of Congress that want to work with us to create some nice new juicy laws. Maybe I'll introduce them to you guys, Audrey. All right, anything else you want to say?
Speaker 1: (33:45)
All right. Thank you, Audrey. Thank you for Sandra for food safety and thank you everyone for joining us.
Speaker 3: (33:59)
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