Natural Foods Merchandiser
Jeffrey Smith discusses why GMOs are the root of many of our health issues

Jeffrey Smith discusses why GMOs are the root of many of our health issues

Q&A with Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, a non-genetically modified organism advocacy group based in Fairfield, Iowa, and author of Seeds of Deception (Yes, 2003) and Genetic Roulette (Yes, 2007)

Q: Do you think GMOs are at the root of many of our health issues?

A: Yes. In the nine years after GMOs were introduced in the mid-1990s, chronic illness in the United States jumped from 7 percent to 13 percent. Also, allergies, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, gastrointestinal infections, asthma, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, Crohn’s disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, gastroesophageal reflux, constipation and certain cancers are all on the rise since GMOs entered our diet. Although we can’t be certain that GMOs are contributing without more study, similar disorders are seen in lab animals and livestock fed GMOs.

Q: What GMO research are you tuning into now?

A: A disturbing report from Moscow in April showed that after feeding hamsters GM soy over three generations, most lost the ability to get pregnant. They also suffered slower growth, a fivefold increase in infant mortality, and many had hair growing inside their mouths. A rat study five years earlier also showed a fivefold increase in infant mortality, slower growth and offspring with fertility problems after mother rats ate GM soy. Other studies showed changes in the testes and sperm cells of GM soy-fed mice and rats. And mice fed GM corn had smaller babies and litter sizes.

Many scientists point to Roundup herbicide, used in heavy concentrations on Roundup Ready GM soy, corn and other crops, as a contributor to these problems. Recent studies implicate Roundup, o

r its active ingredient glyphosate, in birth defects, death of human placenta cells, endocrine disruption and abortions.

Q:What do we need to do to kick GMOs out of our food system?

A: That’s the easy part. If only 5 percent of U.S. consumers avoid GM brands, that should be a sufficient number to create a tipping point that would force those brands out of the market altogether by encouraging manufacturers to create non-GM foods.  U.S. consumers have forced most dairies to abandon GM bovine-growth hormone. And there are plenty of signs that a non-GMO tipping point is on the horizon here as well.

According to a Nielsen survey, “GMO free” was 2009’s fastest-growing store-brand claim, and this year’s fifth fastest-growing health claim for all products. Having crisscrossed the nation speaking on GMOs for years, I’m excited to report that there are now more educated, enthusiastic citizens working to stop GMOs than ever before. These are all things we’d expect to see just before a tipping point.


Q: What should the retailer’s role be when it comes to GMOs?

A: Retailers are the key pivotal force to reclaim a non-GMO food supply. Those who shop at natural foods stores are the best demographic to lead the tipping point. They want to avoid GMOs, but usually don’t know why or how. Retailers can convey the health dangers of GMOs (to motivate), provide easy non-GMO choices (to empower) and share the message of the tipping point (to make it viral). This will mobilize the trendsetting, health-conscious shoppers to drive out GMOs nationwide.

Based on recommendations by our retailer advisory committee, our institute provides tools to make this education effort easy and effective. We have GMO health-risk brochures, non-GMO shopping guides, a freestanding non-GMO education center, a downloadable retailer campaign kit and free materials for retailers’ websites and newsletters. More information is available at

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