Foe: Genetic modification under fire

Slate of speakers scheduled to talk tonight about effects of altering plants, animals

An internationally known author, lecturer and opponent of genetically modified organisms headlines the speakers listed tonight in a discussion about the effects of genetic alterations of plants and animals.

Jeffrey M. Smith, scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m. in the Smiley Building auditorium, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that there is a “rising tide against GMOs” as they’re known.

The latest evidence is the relatively narrow defeat Tuesday in California of Proposition 37, Smith said. The measure would have required the labeling of GMO foods.

A similar ballot measure in Oregon in 2002 was walloped 70 percent to 30 percent under a relentless attack by food industry interests, Smith said.

“The defeat in Oregon demonstrated the effectiveness of blatant lies,” Smith said. “The same tactic – a $1 million-a-day campaign through television, radio and direct mail – was used in California.”

Smith was in California for 3½ months before the Tuesday election as an independent supporter and educator regarding Prop 37.

He will share tonight what he says is overwhelming evidence that GMOs, banned in the European Union, are injurious to health.

Smith, who has lectured in 30 countries, is the author of two books that lay out the case against GMOs. They are Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Food You’re Eating and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.

Following Smith will be:

Amita Nathwani, executive director of Healthy Lifestyles La Plata. She will discuss case studies detailing the detrimental impacts of cross pollination from genetically modified seeds on small farmers in India.

Rebecca Clausen, a professor of environmental sociology at Fort Lewis College. She will discuss efforts of a Canadian firm to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell a new salmon – a cross of a Chinook and the ocean pout, an eel-like fish – that grows twice as fast as an ordinary species.

Nasha Winters, a naturopathic practitioner and acupuncturist at Namaste Health Center. She will discuss health problems attributed to eating food produced from genetically modified crops, mainly soy beans and grains but also sugar beets, apples and tomatoes.

Prop 37, which was defeated by about a 6 percent margin, would have required among other things, labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale if it comes from plants of animals with certain genetic changes; prohibits such food being labeled natural and certain exemptions for certified organic food.

Proponents of GMOs say genetic engineering has been scientifically proven safe. GMOs can improve desired traits in plants and animals, increase resistance to disease and harsh climate and produce larger yields. The technology can be used to improve human and animal health, they say.

Opponents of genetic alteration cite reproductive aberrations in animals fed GMOs; potential exacerbation of allergies, asthma, autism and attention deficit disorder in humans; no evidence that GMOs produce greater yields or need less herbicides; impact on wildlife; loss of access by small farmers to plant material through patented seeds.

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