JUAN GONZALEZ: U.S. diplomatic cables
released by WikiLeaks reveal the
Bush administration drew up ways to
retaliate against Europe for refusing to use genetically modified seeds.
In 2007, then-US ambassador to France Craig Stapleton was concerned
about France’s decision to ban cultivation of genetically modified corn
produced by biotech giant Monsanto. He also warned that a new French
environmental review standard could spread anti-biotech policy across
the leaked cable, Stapleton writes,
"Europe is moving backwards not
forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with
Austria, Italy and even the [European] Commission... Moving to
retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU
interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voice."
AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Stapleton goes on to write,
"Country team Paris
recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some
pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that
also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured
rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we
should not expect an early victory," he wrote.
Well, for more, we’re going to Iowa City to speak with
executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, author
of two books,
Seeds of Deception
- Exposing Industry and Government Lies
about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating
- The Documented Health Risks of Genetically
Jeffrey Smith, talk about the significance of these documents leaked by
JEFFREY SMITH: Well, we’ve been saying for years that the United States
government is joined at the hip with Monsanto and pushing GMOs as part
of Monsanto’s agenda on the rest of the world.
This lays bare the
mechanics of that effort. We have Craig Stapleton, the former ambassador
to France, specifically asking the U.S. government to retaliate and
cause some harm throughout the European Union.
And then, two years
later, in 2009, we have a cable from the ambassador to Spain from the
United States asking for intervention there, asking the government to
help formulate a biotech strategy and support the government - members
of the government in Spain that want to promote GMOs, as well.
they specifically indicate that they sat with the director of Monsanto
for the region and got briefed by him about the politics of the region
and created strategies with him to promote the GMO agenda.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, they apparently were especially interested in one
Monsanto product, MON 810. Could you talk about that?
JEFFREY SMITH: Yes. This is the first seed that was approved for
widespread planting. You see, the biotech industry was concerned
initially about the European Union accepting genetically modified foods.
Although that had been approved for years by the commission, the food
industry had rejected it because consumers were concerned. And so, there
hasn’t been a lot of food going to the European Union that’s genetically
However, they had planned to allow the growing of genetically modified
seeds. Now that MON 810 has been allowed, individual countries have
stepped forward to ban in. And so, in 2007, they were concerned about
that, and so they were trying to create a strategy to force these
countries to accept the first of the genetically modified seeds.
then, there’s been more evidence showing that this genetically modified
corn damages mice and rats, etc., can cause reductions of fertility,
smaller litter sizes, smaller offspring, immune responses, etc.
these have gone largely ignored by both the European Food Safety
Authority and the United States FDA.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about these health effects. Jeffrey Smith, you wrote a
fascinating "Anniversary of a Whistleblowing Hero" piece about a British
scientist and about the repercussions he suffered. He was one of the
biggest GMO advocates.
And explain what happened and what he actually
JEFFREY SMITH: Well, Dr. Arpad Pusztai was actually working on a $3
million grant from the U.K. government to figure out how to test for the
safety of GMOs. And what he discovered quite accidentally is that
genetically modified organisms are inherently unsafe.
Within 10 days,
his supposedly harmless GMO potatoes caused massive damage to rats -
smaller brains, livers and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver,
damaged immune system, etc. And what he discovered was it was the
process, the generic process of genetic engineering, that was likely the
cause of the problem.
He went public with his concerns and was a hero.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Smith, if you could explain this. This is very
significant, because he was an expert on the protein that was - it’s
this kind of insecticide. And everyone thought, oh, that might be the
thing that would hurt people. But he said, actually, it wasn’t that.
JEFFREY SMITH: Exactly. You see, he was testing with rats that were
eating the genetically modified potato, engineered to produce an
But he also tested other groups of rats that were
eating natural potatoes that were spiked with that same protein, and
then a third group that was just eating natural potatoes without the
insecticide. Only the group that ate the genetically engineered potato
got these problems, not the group that was eating the potatoes along
with the insecticide.
So it clearly wasn’t the insecticide; it was
somehow the process of genetic engineering.
Now, that process creates massive collateral damage inside the DNA of
the plant. Hundreds and thousands of mutations can be formed. There
could be hundreds or thousands of genes that are natural genes in the
plant that change their levels of expression. For example, with MON 810
corn, they found that there was a gene that is normally silent that is
switched on and now creates an allergen in corn.
They found 43 different
genes that were significantly up-regulated or down-regulated, meaning
that there’s massive changes in these crops and they’re not being
evaluated by the U.S. - by the FDA or any other regulatory authority
around the world before being put onto the market.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, was there any indication from the cables or from
your research that the pressure that Ambassador Stapleton and other U.S.
officials were putting on the E.U. had the desired effect? Because
former Ambassador Stapleton, was not just any former ambassador, he was
the former co-owner of the Texas Rangers with former President George W.
JEFFREY SMITH: Well, we’ve seen a consistent effort by the U.S. to bully
But, you see, the European mind on this is kind of divided. Some
countries are clearly in the camp of precautionary principle and
protecting interests for health. Others are basically moving in lockstep
with the U.S. government and Monsanto. So it’s a fiercely pitched battle
on every front in Europe.
A lot of the focus of the State Department has been on developing
countries. They try and push GMOs into Africa. They deployed the
Secretary of State’s chief advisory - scientific adviser, Nina Fedoroff,
to Australia and to India.
They tried to engage the Indian government
with a contract or a treaty that would allow their scientists to be
trained in the U.S. So they’ve been working around the world to try and
influence policy on every single continent.
And in some cases, they’re
actually winning, where they’re overtaking the regulatory authorities
and making it quite weak, like it is in the U.S. And in some cases in
Europe now, there’s more resistance than ever, now that it’s "not in my
backyard" politics, "no planting in my country" type of politics.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeffrey Smith, can you compare the Obama administration on
biotechnology with the Bush administration?
JEFFREY SMITH: Unfortunately, we were hoping for a lot more success.
President Obama, while he was campaigning here in Iowa, promised that he
would require labeling of genetically modified crops. And since most
Americans say they would avoid GMOs if labeled, that would have
eliminated it from the food supply. But, you see, he and the FDA have
been promoting the biotechnology.
And unfortunately, the Obama
administration has not been better than the Bush administration,
For example, the person who was in charge of FDA policy in 1992,
Monsanto’s former attorney, Michael Taylor, he allowed GMOs on the
market without any safety studies and without labeling, and the policy
claimed that the agency was not aware of any information showing that
GMOs were significantly different.
Seven years later, because of a
lawsuit, 44,000 secret internal FDA memos revealed that that policy was
a lie. Not only were the scientists at the FDA aware that GMOs were
different, they had warned repeatedly that they might create allergies,
toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. But they were ignored,
and their warnings were even denied, and the policy went forth allowing
the deployment GMOs into the food supply with virtually no safety
That person in charge is now the U.S. food safety czar in the
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what is your general assessment of the sweeping
reform that the Obama administration pushed through of the FDA,
considered one of the biggest reforms of that agency in decades? Your
assessment of it?
JEFFREY SMITH: Well, if the FDA were absolutely dedicated to protecting
public health, giving them more power makes sense. But investigation
after investigation for years, it turns out that they often serve their
"clients," which is industry.
Even one-third of their own surveyed
members in September revealed that they believe that corporate and
special interests really dictates policy in the area of public health.
So, my opinion is, giving them more power without first eliminating that
bias towards corporations is a dangerous formula. In fact, they are
officially mandated with promoting the biotech industry, which is
obviously a conflict of interest.
AMY GOODMAN: I know both Eric Schlosser and also Michael Pollan have
hailed the food safety legislation, but on the issue of talking to the
State Department and what they’re pushing abroad, I want to just say we
did call the State Department and did not get a response. We wanted them
to come on today’s broadcast.
Finally, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Jeffrey Smith, your
JEFFREY SMITH: Well, he was our governor here in Iowa, and he was the
biotech governor of the year in 2001. And unfortunately, he’s been
following that course of action since he has been put in office.
released today the environmental impact statement for alfalfa, where
they ignore their own data regarding the increase of pesticides because
of GMOs. They ignore the data of their own scientists and other
scientists, which show the use of Roundup, which will be promoted
through this Roundup Ready alfalfa, is actually very toxic both for the
environment and for human health.
And so, he, as well as many others of
the Obama administration, have been taken essentially from the biotech
ranks and are now calling the shots there. And I’m very disappointed.
There was some indication in the EIS, however, for the alfalfa that he
might take into consideration concerns about contamination, which we all
know is permanent, where the self-propagating genetic pollution of
genetically modified foods can outlast the effects of global warming and
nuclear waste. It’s being released now without - with very little
concern. Finally, we see some ray of light, where they’re actually
paying attention, but it’s not enough.
It’s not based really on science.