GMO -- Interviews
Andrew Kimbrell
Updated: 14 March 2014

This is my set of notes on one of a "GMO mini-summit" series of interviews put together by John and Ocean Robbins of Food Revolution in October 2013, many of them conducted by Jeffrey Smith of the Institute For Responsible Technology and author of the international best-seller Seeds of Deception and the comprehensive Genetic Roulette. The interviewer in this case is John Robbins.

Topics Qualifications Highlights

  • leading public interest attorney
  • founder and director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS)
  • fights to protect people and the environment from the threats of chemical-dependent industrialized agriculture
  • often called on to testify before the United States Congress
  • work has been featured in numerous publications and documentaries
  • recognized by The Guardian as one of the 50 people who could change the planet
  • most recent book is Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food
  • plays a passionate but utterly scientific role in a number of films on GMOs

  • The "non-difference"
    • GE (genetic engineering) is to traditional breeding as nuclear weapons are to a sword
    • Monsanto tells Patent Office it is different so it can be patented, then turns around and tells FDA it is the same.
  • The "casette"
    • the vector -- an invasive bacteria
    • the novel DNA from completely different species
    • the promoter -- from califlower mosaic virus
    • the ampicillin/kanamycin-resistant marker gene
  • Precision NOT -- trial & error, no control over where vector inserts DNA, naive denial of now-known complexity of genome
  • Gene=trait WRONG -- genes not isolated units, genes interact, can't mess with one without affecting others; wheat has 80K genes, humans 20K, but humans more complex
  • Total GM failure on important traits: nitrogen fixating, intake of water, ability to take in sunlight, nutrition, size, yield -- all involve multiple genes
  • Soil bacteria -- role in all this still unexplored
  • CFS role -- e.g., stopping commercialization of GE foods and biopharmaceuticals
  • Monsanto Protection Act to prevent court action from stopping dangerous behavior (subsequently defeated)
  • Destruction by industrial farming -- biodiversity (90% of fruit/vegetable varieties), farms, farm communities, endangered species
  • Organic: no chemical controls or fertilizers, sewage sludge, GMOs, radiation
  • Beyond: local and appropriate scale, socially just, humane and bio-diverse (30% greenhouse gases from farming)
  • Threat to organic: Bt (needed by organics) sprayed everywhere, creating resistance
  • Herbicides
    • All about chemicals -- GM seed companies are chemical companies: Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Syngenta and Bayer; use chem profits to buy seed companies (Monsanto 25% of commercial seeds, top 3 60%).
    • resistant superweeds require more herbicide (now on 50% of US farms)
    • Now want approval of GM resistant to 2,4-D/AgentOrange (Dow) and Dicamba (Monsanto) -- Dicamba volatilizes and cloud can wipe out adjacent conventional or organic farms.
    • 2012: organics saved 40 million pounds of herbicide, but weed resistance caused 115 million excess pounds of Roundup
  • Tech treadmill
  • -- an 80-year progression
    • Hybrid corn thicker stalks, requires machinery
    • Cost knocks out farmers, larger farms & more monoculture
    • Enter insects, fungi and weeds
    • Enter chemicals
    • Bring soil depletion
    • Enter fertilizers
  • Oil-not-soil ag is unsustainable
    • Herbicide escalation
    • Beef overuse of water
  • Labeling
    • 30-year $multi-billion failure to provide what people want
    • So labeling a real marketplace threat
    • 93% US public want labeling; 1.2 million comments to FDA (largest ever)
    • CT & ME labeling bills dependent on other states, CA and WA initiatives lost by only tiny amount in spite of $10's millions to defeat
    • Federal level risk -- national voluntary or pre-emption of state labeling; action to prevent this is VITAL

A bit more by/about Andrew Kimbrell
  1. His website
  2. The GMO Reality Check -- EXCELLENT fact-filled yet inspirational article
  3. Some interesting background (from an unfriendly source that mentions "bad" things that are actually quite good)
  4. Dr. Mercola interview -- links to YouTube video segments, downloadable transcript PDF

More GMO information here.