Chat with Jeffrey Smith, Monday

posted in: News, Updates | 14

On August 20th, our friends at the Non-GMO Project hosted a Facebook ‘book club’ with Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth. I read the brief conversation after the fact, and not too much happened. There was a bit of self-congratulation of being ‘in the know’ along with some suggestions from the head of Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE Australia inc.), Madeline, that cutting GE foods out of her diet had a noticeable effect on her gastrointestinal health – not just because it was processed food. If you are wondering what I think about personal gastrointestinal experiences related to genetic engineering, check out my post titled, The Inadequacy of Anecdotes. There were some good comments and questions about the difficulties that allergy-sensitive individuals have when it comes to making food choices, but on the real reason for the conversation – raising doubts about genetic engineering, there was no voice to show people any of the evidence of safety, or poke holes in logic.  Well I (and now that you know about it – you) will have an opportunity to participate in their next book club with none other than Jeffrey Smith, on Monday the 20th of September. That’s tomorrow!

I was one of the first to mark my attendance on the facebook event page, and I only recognize a few other participants. It would be great to see half a dozen Biofortified readers taking part, providing links to papers, debunking arguments, and above all, politely and respectfully asking tough questions of Mr. Smith. Where to start? You could look up a few of the things we have written about him on this site, or perhaps check out the extensive fisking of Smith’s recent book, Genetic Roulette, by David Tribe and Bruce Chassy at Academics Review. Pick your favorite page or claim and ask a question about it. Smith already knows about Academics Review and has written it off, however, it provides powerful critiques of his 65 claims. But don’t limit yourself to that! Maybe you could ask about why he considers genetic engineering to be a dangerous “genetic roulette” when mutagenesis is far less predictable and far more disruptive? Or how about all the independent papers on the safety of GE foods? Or you could ask him for his favorite recipe for pasta salad, all up to you.

The Non-GMO Project is trying to generate discussion about genetic engineering, and they need our help to enrich it. My hope is that people have fun chatting, learn something, and that maybe we could pick up a few more readers and open a few more minds to verifiable sources of information. My hope is that individual people will be judged by their comments alone, but if anyone is mean and nasty it might come back to us even if they do not write for this blog or comment here. So think, What Would Frank Type, and go forth and give science a voice!

The book club discussion will be held on Monday the 20th of September, at 11:00 Pacific Time. Comments and questions can be submitted beforehand, you could write one tonight!

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Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.