excerpts from the book
Seeds of Deception
Exposing Industry and Government
the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
by Jeffrey M. Smith
Yes! Books, 2003, paperback
a biotech consultant
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.
Genetically modified potatoes were already being sold and consumed
in the United States. Their DNA was spliced with a gene from a
soil bacterium similar to Bacillus anthrax. The added gene caused
the potatoes to create their own pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis
toxin or Bt. If insects had the misfortune to eat one of these
genetically modified wonders, the Bt, which was manufactured by
every cell of the plant, quickly killed the insect. The same Bt-creating
genes have also been placed into the DNA of corn and cottonseed,
also sold and consumed in the United States, and all officially
classified as pesticides.
Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the world's expert on lectins, found that rats
which were fed GM potatoes suffered damaged immune systems. Their
white blood cells responded much more sluggishly than those fed
a non-GM diet, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and disease.
Organs related to the immune system, the thymus and spleen, showed
some damage as well. Compared to rats fed a non-GM control diet,
some of the GM-fed rats had smaller, less developed brains, livers,
and testicles. Other rats had enlarged tissues, including the
pancreas and intestines. Some showed partial atrophy of the liver.
What's more, significant structural changes and a proliferation
of cells in the stomach and intestines of GM-fed rats may have
signaled an increased potential for cancer.
... In the end only the rats that ate
the GM potatoes suffered the serious negative effects. From the
evidence, it was clear that the lectins were not the major cause
of the health damage. Rather, there was some effect from the process
of genetic engineering itself that caused the damaged organs and
immune dysfunction of the adolescent rats.
... Pusztai knew that his results strongly
suggested that the GM foods already approved and being eaten by
hundreds of millions of people every day might be creating similar
health problems in people, especially in children.
... Furthermore, if human beings developed
problems similar to his rats, it could take years to appear and
it would be highly unlikely for anyone to suspect GM foods as
In April 1999, the British food industry bowed to consumer pressure.
Unilever, England's biggest food manufacturer, announced it Would
remove GM ingredients from its products sold in Europe. The announcement
started a weeklong stampede by leading companies, all household
names," reported the Independent. Nestlé made its
announcement the next day, as did the major supermarket chains
including Tesco, Sainsbury, Safeway, Asda, and Somerfield. McDonalds
and Burger King also committed to remove GM soy and corn from
their ingredients in European stores. In the end, no major retailer
was left standing in the GMO camp. They would eventually spend
millions sourcing new supplies of non-GM corn, soy, and their
derivatives, or reformulating their recipes, removing corn and
soy products altogether. (The European Union passed a law requiring
foods that contain ingredients with more than 1 percent GM content
to be labeled. Most European producers have eliminated GM ingredients
in order to avoid the label. On July 2, 2003, the European Parliament
voted to lower the labeling threshold to .9 percent.)
Researchers at Cornell University announced ... that monarch butterflies
died when they came into contact with pollen from corn engineered
to create its own pesticide.
GM foods are a regular part of the U.S. diet. Approximately 80
percent of the soy and 38 percent of the corn planted in the U.S.
in 2003 is genetically engineered. Derivatives from these two
crops are found in about 70 percent of processed foods. In addition,
70 percent of the cotton crop and more than 60 percent of the
canola crop, both used for cooking oil, are also genetically modified.
About 75 percent of these crops are engineered to withstand otherwise
deadly applications of an herbicide, 17 percent produce their
own insecticide, and 8 percent are engineered to do both. There
are also hundreds of foods produced with genetically engineered
cooking agents, food additives, and enzymes, as well as varieties
of GM squash and papaya. And there are dairy products from cows
injected with a GM bovine growth hormone. All these are sold without
labels identifying them as GMOs.
The regulations in the U.S. are so lax, there are no required
pre-market safety tests. There is no way to determine if GM foods
are creating serious health problems. People get sick all the
time without tracking their illness to food, or pesticides, or
air or water pollution. The causes remain well hidden.
In 1990, no state had 15 percent or more of its population in
the obese category. By 2001, only one state didn't. Diabetes rose
by 33 percent from 1990 to 1998, lymphatic cancers are up, and
many other illnesses are on the rise. Is there a connection to
GM foods? We have no way of knowing because no one has looked
With such slim research on the safety of GM food and such enormous
risks, why are respected institutes, scientific panels, research
journals, even government officials lining up to defend it as
proven safe? And why are they so quick to condemn evidence that
might be used to protect the public?
With less research money available from public sources, more and
more scientists in the U.S. and Europe are dependent on corporate
sponsors, and hence, corporate acceptance of their research and
results. Among Britain's top research universities, for example,
dependence on private funds often amounts to 80 to 90 percent
of the total research budget.
A poll of 500 scientists working in either government or recently
privatized research institutes in the UK revealed that 30 percent
had been asked to change their research conclusions by their sponsoring
In the U.S., corporate donations [to scientific research] rose
from $850 million in 1985 to $4.25 billion in less than ten years.
According to the Atlantic Monthly, "increasingly the money
comes with strings attached .... In higher education today corporations
not only sponsor a growing amount of research - they frequently
dictate the terms under which it is conducted.
A study of major research centers in the
field of engineering found that 35 percent would allow corporate
sponsors to delete information from papers prior to publication.
Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed
that studies of cancer drugs funded by non-profit groups were
eight times more likely to reach unfavorable conclusions as the
studies funded by the pharmaceutical companies.
Jaan Suurküla, M.D., in an editorial for PSRAST (Physicians
and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology)
Scientific experts cannot be expected
to be independent and reliable advisors in safety issues considering
the increasing dependence of science on financial support from
Dr. Arpad Pusztai
In the last four or five years ... I became
very / concerned. The problems with GM foods may be irreversible
and the true effects may only be seen well in the future.
The situation is like the tobacco industry.
They knew about it but they suppressed that information. They
created misleading evidence that showed that the problem wasn't
so serious. And all the time they knew how bad it was. Tobacco
is bad enough. But genetic modification, if it is going to be
problematic, if it is going to cause us real health problems,
then tobacco will be nothing in comparison with this. The size
of genetic modification and problems it may cause us are tremendous.
If we injure the health prospects of humanity
in this and the next and the next generation, then I think those
people should be made accountable for the crimes they committed.
In 1985 pigs were engineered with a human gene that produces human
growth hormone. The scientists' goal was to produce a faster-growing
pig. What they got was a freak show... In one of the first litters
born with the growth hormone genes, a female piglet had no anus
or genitals. Some of the pigs were too lethargic to stand. Others
had arthritis, ulcers, enlarged hearts, dermatitis, vision problems,
or renal disease.
Recombinant (genetically engineered) bovine growth hormone (rbGH)
when injected into dairy cows, increases milk production by 10
to f5 percent.
... Most critics of rbGH are far less
concerned about rbGH residues in the milk than they are about
another change that takes place in treated cows. The injections
result in the increase of yet another hormone: insulin-like growth
factor-1 (IGF-1). Humans also have IGF-1. It causes cells to divide
and is one of the most powerful growth hormones in the body. It
also resembles insulin; hence the name insulin-like growth factor.
Human IGF-1 is chemically identical to the IGF-1 found in cows.
... The FDA admits, rbGH treatment produces
an increase in the concentration of insulin-like growth factor-1
(IGF-1) in cow's milk.
... Whatever the amount, according to
Rachel's Environmental and Health News, "IGF-1 in milk is
not destroyed by pasteurization. It's intact in the milk we drink.
Not only is there more IGF-1 in the milk,
it is not destroyed in the stomach. The Canadian Gaps Analysis
Report said IGF-1 "can survive the GI tract environment"
and is "absorbed intact.
... A study on humans published in the
journal of the American Dietetic Association measured the free
levels of IGF-1 in two groups, one that drank milk and one that
did not. The study reported, "Serum IGF-1 levels increased
significantly in milk drinkers.
... By 1991, it was already documented
that IGF-1 was "critically involved in the aberrant growth
of human breast cancer cells."
... In 1993, the European journal Cancer
concluded that IGF-1 "plays a major role in human breast
cancer cell growth.
In January l998, a paper in Science established
the cancer link even further. A Harvard study of 15,000 white
males revealed that those with elevated IGF-1 levels in their
blood were four times more likely to get prostate cancer than
the average man. The report says, "A strong positive association
was observed between IGF- 1 levels and prostate cancer risk"
and "administration of GH [growth hormone in humans or IGF-
1 over long periods ... may increase risk of prostate cancer.
Four months later, a study in the Lancet
found premenopausal women in the U.S. with high levels of IGF-1
were seven times as likely to develop breast cancer. The authors
wrote, "with the exception of a strong family history of
breast cancer... the relation between IGF-1 and risk of breast
cancer may be greater than that of other established breast-cancer
Cancer Research reported
Diet contributes to over one-third of
cancer in the Western world, yet the factors in the diet that
influence cancer are not elucidated.
The EU ended up instituting a permanent ban [on rbGH].. New Zealand,
Australia, Japan, and other industrialized countries likewise
do not allow rbGH.
... rbGH remains on the U.S. market.
In 1960, Senate investigators discovered that FDA officials had
been receiving financial incentives from the companies they were
supposed to regulate... In 1969, a congressional study revealed
that thirty-seven of forty-nine top FDA officials who left the
agency took jobs with food and drug companies.
[In 1976] several FDA officials and drug company executives were
convicted on corruption, racketeering, and similar charges for
a bribery scheme that went on from 1989-1992. Generic drug companies
paid off FDA officials to approve their drugs and block approval
of competitors' drugs. The generic drug companies also withheld
data and even substituted other companies' brand name drugs for
evaluation, instead of risking an evaluation of their own product."
former FDA Commissioner Dr. Herbert Ley said in 1969
Then thing that bugs me is that people
think the FDA is protecting them. It isn't. What the FDA is doing
and what the public thinks it's doing are as different as night
In 2002, more than 2 million of the 9.2 million U.S. dairy cows
were injected with rbGH. Larger dairies farms use it more often;
54 percent of farms with at least 500 cows compared to about 9
percent of farms with less than 100 cows. But since dairies typically
mix milk from many farms, milk from hormone treated cows is in
almost all U.S. dairy products.
FDA chemist Joseph Settapani
The FDA's failures have become a scientific
breakdown that threatens the safety of America's food supply generally,
and dairy products in particular .... As a result of [their] failure
to act, the nation's milk supply - as well as products such as
infant formula, ice cream, cheese and yogurt that are made from
milk - is highly contaminated with unknown levels of animal-drug
residues that have not been shown to be safe.
Organic dairies and many others take precautions to avoid the
Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber in their book "Trust Us
In the absence of labeling for genetically
modified products, it is impossible to determine who has been
eating mutant soybeans and who has been eating natural ones.
If something toxic enters the food supply, tracing it to its source
will be difficult if impossible.
Monsanto had assured the public that their Agent Orange, the defoliant
used during the Vietnam War, was safe for humans. It wasn't. Thousands
of veterans and tens of thousand of Vietnamese who suffered a
wide range of maladies, including cancer, neurological disorders,
and birth defects, blame Monsanto.
Monsanto had also declared their electrical
insulator poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as safe. They weren't.
Outlawed in 1978, they have been linked to cancer and birth defects,
and are considered a major environmental hazard.
Henry Miller, who was in charge of biotechnology issues at the
FDA from 1979 to 1,994
The U.S. government agencies have done
exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them
public interest attorney Steven Druker, who has studied the FDA's
References to the unintended negative
effects of bioengineering [at the FDA from 1979-1994] were progressively
deleted from drafts of the policy statement, and a final statement
was issued claiming (a) that [GM] foods are no riskier than others
and (b) that the agency has no information to the contrary.
James Turner, a long-time FDA watchdog and best-selling author
of The Chemical Feast: The Nader Report on the Food and Drug Administration
At the top [of the FDA] there are political
appointees not necessarily bound by science, but often influenced
by other agendas. Many pass through the agency at a rapid clip,
moving from one regulated enterprise to another. At the same time,
some of the finest scientists and public servants that I have
ever met worked at the FDA. Unfortunately many of them are often
hired away by universities, nonprofit groups, and other public
health agencies, leaving a less dedicated and less competent residue
of people not highly sought after outside of government.
Richard Crout, former director of the FDA's Bureau of Drugs, April
1976 testimony before the Panel of New Drug Regulations
I want to describe the agency [FDA] as
I saw it. No one knew where anything was .... There was absenteeism;
there was open drunkenness by several employees, which went on
for months; there was intimidation internally . . . . People -
I'm talking about division directors and their staffs - would
engage in a kind of behavior that invited insubordination; people
tittered in the corners, throwing spitballs - now I'm describing
physicians; people would slouch down in their chairs and not respond
to questions; and moan-and-groan, the sleeping gestures. This
was a kind of behavior I have not seen in any other institution
from a grown man... FDA has a long-term problem with the recruitment
of personnel, good, scientific personnel.
a congressional aide said in 1991
The result of OMB interference [over the
previous decade] is that the expertise of scientists and career
civil servants is being second-guessed by people who have no legal
or scientific basis... At FDA morale stinks. Hundreds of people
have either retired or quit in disgust. All the best people,
who believed in working on behalf of public health, have gone.
FDA veterinarian Richard Burroughs describing
what the saw at the FDA
There seemed to be a trend m the place
toward approval at any price. It went from a university-like setting
where there was independent scientific review to an atmosphere
of 'approve, approve, approve... the thinking is, 'How many things
can we approve this year?' Somewhere along the way they abdicated
their responsibility to the public welfare.
The [Government Accounting Office] GAO [found] that more than
half of the drugs approved by the FDA between 1976 and 1985 had
severe or fatal side effects that had not been detected during
the agency's review and testing.
Bt is a pesticide, so it's exempt from
FDA regulation. That is, even though a Bt potato is plainly a
food, for the purposes of federal regulation it is not a food
but a pesticide and therefore falls under the jurisdiction of
... The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act specifically
bars the FDA from including any information about pesticides on
its food labels.
Phil Angel, Director of Corporate Communications for Monsanto
[Monsanto] should not have to vouchsafe
the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much
of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job.
Further investigation revealed that Searle
[Pharmaceutical Company] had known about the tumor-producing potential
of [Aldactone and Flagyl] but had simply given the FDA fraudulent
data. [Searle was the tenth largest pharmaceutical company at
The four leaders of the biotech industry - Monsanto, Dow, DuPont,
and Novartis (now Syngenta) - gave more than $3.5 million in PAC,
soft-money, and large individual contributions between 1995 and
2000 - three-quarters of it to Republicans.
The Globe and Mail [UK]
[Monsanto is] a virtual retirement home
for members of the Clinton administration.
Another former EPA employee, Linda Fisher,
became vice president
Betty Martini of the consumer group Mission Possible
The Food and Drug Administration is so
closely linked to the biotech industry now that it could be described
as their Washington branch office.
In Europe, nearly the entire food manufacturing and retail industry
has banned GM ingredients, and the majority of the world's population
are covered by restrictions on the sale and use of GM crops .
Because of the difficulty of segregating GM crops from non-GM
crops, many overseas buyers have simply rejected all corn, soy,
canola, and cotton from the U.S. and Canada. Since these four
GM crops and their derivatives are found in most processed foods
in the U.S., American-made packaged foods are also off-limits
in many markets.
U.S. corn exports to Europe have been virtually eliminated, down
by 99.4 percent. Likewise, Canada's annual canola sales to Europe
vanished as has their honey - tainted by GM pollen.
U.S. soy, which enjoyed 57 percent of the world market, dropped
by about a fifth to 46 percent. Soy is principally used for animal
feed. U.S. soy sales have been supported by the fact that, until
recently, few importers expressed concern about feeding animals
GM feed. But overseas retailers are now promising to sell meat
that was raised on non-GM sources.
GM tomatoes and potatoes failed to take hold and have been taken
off the market. GM sugar beet, flax, and rice, while approved,
were never commercialized. When Monsanto pushed hard to introduce
GM wheat, more than 80 percent of U.S.- and Canadian wheat buyers
said they didn't want it and might shop elsewhere if it were introduced.
More than 200 groups, including the U.S. and Canadian National
Farmers Unions, the Canadian Wheat Board, and the American Corn
growers Association, lobbied against Monsanto, ultimately forcing
them to announce on May 10, 2004, that they were canceling their
plans to develop GM wheat for the near future.
Even in the U.S. where there has been [little] news coverage of
the GMO issue, more and more food manufacturers are committing
to remove GM ingredients from their products. First major health
food retail chains such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats rejected
GMOs. Now mainstream American retailer Trader Joe's has followed
suit a result market research: 'The majority of our customers
would prefer to have products made without genetically engineered
ingredients.'' Other, even larger U.S.-based food companies, including
Frito-Lay, Gerber, Heinz, Seagram and Han, have also decided not
to use GMOs in their products. A 2003 ABC news poll also revealed
that 92 percent the U.S. population want GM food to be labeled.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Aaron told European representatives
Not a rash, not a sneeze, not a cough,
not a watery eye has been developed from [GM foods], and that's
because we have been extremely careful in our process of approving
He said that the FDA found no scientific
proof that GM foods were harmful. He said the reason that Americans
were not against GM food is because they trust the FDA. The problem,
according to Aaron, was not with the foods. It was the fact that
Europe had no American-style FDA. Aaron said, "We would like
the governments ... to develop a transparent, systematic approval
process that is based on science."
Many of the world's media, particularly in the United States,
have been the target of an intensive pro-biotech campaign by the
industry. Hence, there has been a chronic underreporting of GM
concerns-especially the health risks.
Food can have a profound effect on behavior, mood, happiness,
and our entire quality of life. In 2002, research demonstrated
that "food molecules act like hormones, regulating body functioning
and triggering cell division. The molecules can cause mental imbalances
ranging from attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder to serious
mental illness". Food can be "more powerful than drugs."
The researchers also said that food could alter "genes that
affect whether we get cancer, heart disease, depression, schizophrenia
or dyslexia." Eating the right foods not only extends our
lives, they said, but "more importantly, we would maintain
a higher quality of life as we age."
A study by the UK's Asthma and Allergy Research Centre supports
this conclusion. For two weeks, 277 three-year-olds were fed fruit
juice dosed with a total of 20 mg of four artificial colors along
with the preservative sodium benzoate. These amounts are well
below levels allowed in children's food and drink. For another
two-week period, the children received plain fruit juice.
The parents were not told which two-week
period their kids got the plain juice and which period they got
the spiked juice. They were asked to write reports on their three-year-olds'
behavior. They covered areas such as "interrupting, concentration,
disturbing others, difficulty settling down to sleep, fiddling
with objects and temper tantrums." The data showed significant
differences between the two trial periods. In fact, the study
concluded that food coloring is the likely cause for one in four
temper tantrums among the general child population.
Researchers said, "significant changes
in children's hyperactive behavior could be produced by the removal
of food colorings and additives from their diet." The benefits,
they said, "would accrue for all children from such a change,
and not just for those already showing hyperactive behavior or
who are at risk of allergic reactions."'
If additives and junk food have such a
powerful affect on infants, students and probationers, how much
of our irritability, distractions, restlessness, insomnia, anger,
or depression are being dictated by what we eat? Science does
not yet have the answer. Food's impact on mental and emotional
health is not evaluated in traditional food safety assessments.
And no research has yet looked at these effects related to GM
Currently, the major genetically engineered crops are soy, cotton,
canola, and com. Other modified crops include some U.S. zucchini~
and yellow squash, Hawaiian papaya, and some tobacco. There may
also be some remaining GM potatoes in the form of starch, but
Monsanto is no longer marketing them. The GM tomatoes have similarly
been taken off the market. U.S. dairy products may contain milk
from cows injected with rbGH. And both meat and dairy products
usually come from animals that have eaten GM feed. Even honey
and bee pollen can contain GM sources.
In addition, there are genetically modified
food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents in
thousands of foods on the grocery shelves as well as health supplements.
For example, the rennet used to make cheese is often a genetically
engineered version. Aspartame, the diet sweetener, is a product
of genetic engineering. And GM bacteria and fungi are used in
the production of enzymes, vitamins, and processing aids.
In the United States and Canada, GM foods
are not labeled.
Most generic vegetable oils and margarines used in restaurants
and in processed foods in North America are made from soy, corn,
canola, or cottonseed. Soy oil alone comprises 80 percent of U.S.
vegetable oil. (Substantial portions of each of these four crops
are genetically engineered and usually mixed together with their
non-GM counterparts before being pressed into oil. Therefore,
unless the oil specifically says "Non-GMO" or "Organic,"
it is probably genetically modified.
Most packaged foods contain soy and/or corn in some form: as soy
flour, soy protein, soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein,
corn meal, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, citric
acid, lactic acid, and of course, soy or corn oil.
Foods that may contain GM soy or corn derivatives or GM vegetable
oil include: infant formula, salad dressing, bread, cereal, hamburgers
and hotdogs, margarine, mayonnaise, crackers, cookies, chocolate,
candy, fried food, chips, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice
cream, frozen yogurt, tofu, tamari, soy, soy cheese, tomato sauce,
protein powder, baking powder, alcohol, vanilla, powdered sugar,
peanut butter, enriched flour and pasta. Non-food items include
cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoo, and bubble bath.
More than 50 percent of papaya from Hawaii is genetically modified
to resist a virus. Most U.S. papayas come from Brazil, Mexico,
or the Caribbean, however, where there are, no GM varieties. Some
zucchini and yellow crookneck squash are also GM but they are
not popular with farmers.
Dairies generally collect their milk from many sources. In the
U.S., if a dairy product is not labeled organic, non-GMO, or made
without hormones, it is likely that a portion of the product came
from cows that were injected with rbGH... studies have been done
on whether that affects the milk.
Honey can be produced from GM crops. For example, some Canadian
honey comes from bees collecting nectar from canola. This has
shut down exports of Canadian honey to Europe.
Organic meat and eggs come from animals that have been raised
without hormones and with feed that is non-GMO. So-called "natural"
meat is usually free of hormones and antibiotics, but the animal
may have been raised on GM feed.
One common enzyme is called chymosin which is used in the production
of hard cheeses. In the past, it was taken from the stomach linings
of calves (called rennet). Since the GM variety was introduced
in 1990, more than 70 percent of U.S. cheeses now use this variety.
It is not allowed in organic cheese. Xanthan gum is another product
that may be derived from a GM process.
New [US Department of Agriculture (USDA)] rules forbid the use
of genetic engineering for products labeled as organic. If seeds
or crops have been accidentally mixed with GM content, the product
cannot be sold as organic. An exception is made in the case of
contamination from cross-pollination.
... If a package says "100% Organic"
each ingredient must be 100 percent organic. If the label says
"Organic," at least 95 percent of the ingredients must
be organic. The remaining 5 percent are not supposed to be genetically
modified according to the organic standards. If the label states,
"Made with Organic Ingredients," at least 70 percent
of the ingredients must be organic-the non-organic ingredients
are also not supposed to be GM. The non-organic ingredients, usually
listed at the bottom of the label, do not need to be tested as
In Europe where food is labeled if its ingredients contain even
a small amount of GM content, restaurants are supposed to list
if any of their foods contain GM ingredients or have the information
available upon request.