best book on GM-food

        Jeffrey M. Smith 'Genetic Roulette  the documented health risks of genetically engineered foods'  329+pp hardback, 2007  Yes!  Books    P O Box 469  Fairfield Iowa

reviewed by L R B Mann

        This is the best book on GM-food - as Prof Samuel S Epstein puts it on the cover, "the most comprehensive, well-documented and highly readable exposť on the serious health dangers of GM foods".    Over 300 pp, near-A4, attractively laid out like a textbook, cover the subject more thoroughly than has been done previously, and persuasively.

        The first half of the book is brilliantly laid out.  Each opening consists of the L page with a highlighted relevant quote and a few conclusions in large type, based on the details on the other p.  For instance, pp.60-61 'A GM food suplement killed about 100 people and caused 5,000 - 10,000 to fall sick', tells what would be known in a democracy about the novel illness EMS caused by L-tryptophan mfd 1984-89 by Showa Denko, the only mfr to use GM-bacilli to increase yield (I would not concede Smith's 'more economically').  The page of small print states key details  -  probably the last round of small changes before the facts become widely standardised  -  unref'd 'CDC officials' stating the numbers in the Headline, which are indeed as indicated by the scholarly literature.
        In 2002 Nature Biotek printed the briefest summary of the EMS disaster (within The Schubert Letter).  That jnl responded with a letter from leading DNA-wankers Roger Beachy, Wayne Parrott etc purporting to deny the main facts. I doubt they'll do that a half-decade later, notwithstanding the refusal of leading medical jnls to publish a scholarly account of the GM-tryptophan disaster.  The Eichelbaum travesty also misrepresented this important disaster.  Smith's account is right.  Now let's see whether any govts take notice.

        One obvious weakness is the near-absence of diagrams.  Some of the concepts entailed in GM are best explained with the help of diagrams, so it is a surprise to see so few.  Perhaps a future edition can add more.

        I'm listed in the index with the same number of quotes  -  5   -  as Prof Jack Heinemann of our other island.  I'm flattered, as Jack is an involved practitioner whereas I'm no longer at the bench  -  indeed, Smith's habit of identifying me as 'University of Auckland', without my prior knowledge let alone permission, may annoy some at that institution whence I retired many y ago.  But I don't expect any direct complaints about the quotes.  Perhaps my favourite has a page of its own starting the 5-openings Section 6 on the theme 'GM crops may increase environmental toxins and bioaccumulate toxins in the food chain': from my statement to the supreme court of India:
                The gene-manipulators claim they can foresee the evolutionary results of their artificial transposings of human genes into sheep, bovine genes into tomatoes, altered bacterial genes into eggplant, etc.  But such claims are a reflection more of arrogance than of scientific analysis.     

        In Sep 2000 I lectured the Ak branch of the RSNZ, mentioning inter alia:
                The depraved trade of mercenary deception, commonly called PR, has enormous influence in the suppression and distortion of information about GM.  It is easy to predict the reactions to Genetic Roulette of the PR agents who still exert for Monsanto etc a near-stranglehold on public utterances about GM:
first ignore, pretending the book doesn't exist;
then, if praise emerges (as it did for Rachel Carson from Pres. Kennedy), vilify the author.  There are tiny errors  -  far fewer than in many more prestigious works lately  -  and the PR agents will wildly exaggerate pecadilloes in attempt to invalidate the whole message.  It's an old deceitful game.  I doubt it will work on this book which is generally well referenced and fair.

        Smith is himself a capable marketer.  The first 4 pp. before the title p. in this new book are endorsements from D T Suzuki, Epstein, Pusztai, and many celebrities.  The cover mentions  -  could be cheaper than your bookshop ? ...   The final page plugs 'More products by Jeffrey M. Smith'  -  viz.  4 books.
        One dimension of PR strife not yet tried on is implied by that address Fairfield, Iowa  -  HQ of the most vigorous Hare Krishna sect, Maharishi U of Management.  To me as a Christian it's embarrassing that such feeble opposition to GM has yet emerged from the Church, and more effective, reliable opposition has, to date, emanated from this sect. Affiliated there is the brilliant John Fagan, a reliable source of science on the Showa Denko GM-tryptophan, and provider of a valuable commercial service of GM-food assays in the range (e.g 0.1%) of contamination that is still (contrary to the hopes of Monsanto etc) causing strenuous objections & consumer resistance.  Fagan has not been used by the NZ Govt during any of the long-drawn-out unintelligible PR-stunts around alleged low-level GM-contamination of maize, diabolically designed to annoy the public with questions they could not understand let alone resolve.
   The effect, and I'm sure the purpose, of these media stunts has been to convince most citizens that GM-food is a hopelessly incomprehensible issue, so they shrug their shoulders and leave it to expensive corrupt rubber-stamp agencies ERMA, ANZFA, etc.  As one election campaign was warming up with some publicity for the Green party's opposition to GM-food and to uncontained GMOs generally, a suspiciously complete dossier on some at most marginally GM-contaminated maize was 'leaked' to a long-time campaigner against the PR trade, N Hager.  The media gave a lot of airtime, but little clarity, to govt denials, cover-ups etc; but no clear picture ever emerged on the measurements, let alone their significance.  The whole flurry was emotive, uninformative, and infuriating to most.  Green support dropped from 10% to 5.2% by the time of the election.  Absent reliable info such as Smith now makes available, people recoil from GM as incomprehensible, and resent being bothered by it.
        The question now is whether the media will start to tell the truth about GM.  A monster wasting $10^11 gathers some momentum, even when almost all the corporations "doing" it have yet to win a dollar of revenue, let alone net a profit.  Media that have no advertising revenue from such corporations with nothing to sell should surely be less credulous about the lies on which GM depends.  Let the media get Smith's Genetic Roulette, and face up to this danger rather than continuing to propagandise for it.